Most Haverford students walk by the outdoor basketball court next to Virtue Village every day. As they pass it on their way to class, they probably admire the two murals on the wall. If they pay close enough attention to the wall, they’ll notice that there are murals depicting spring and fall sports but a blank space where a winter sports mural should be. Many probably daydream about painting that missing winter sports mural.
Yet, only one person this year—Fifth Former Peter Kaplan—has had this daydream and then actually decided to enter the long process of designing a mural, getting approval for that design, and then painting it.
“It’s a lot of work to produce [a mural],” said Art Department Chair Mr. Christopher Fox, who has helped Kaplan throughout the process.
Kaplan first got the idea to paint a mural from his father. Last year, the two of them were walking on campus when his father noticed that the basketball court wall lacked a winter sports mural.
“He [my father] was just like, it’s kind of crazy to me that there’s not another [mural] there. Somebody should do something,” Kaplan said.
When the world shut down last spring and Kaplan, who has loved both sports and art since his childhood, suddenly found himself with lots of spare time, he took matters into his own hands and started on a design.
“In the spring and the summer and fall, I was just working through a lot of different designs. And then that’s how I came to [one of my current designs]. I just thought it took a lot of the elements from my various designs and combined them,” Kaplan said.
After working on designs, he took his ideas to Mr. Fox, who helped Kaplan, while also making sure that he trusted his artistic vision.
“Unless I see something really out of whack, I prefer it be the vision of the artist,” Mr. Fox said. “Haverford guys tend to be pretty clever, have good ideas, so I try to support their ideas.”
Kaplan currently has two functioning designs for the mural, and he is waiting for one of them to be verified by the “aesthetics committee,” which is made up of school leaders who make the final decision on what the campus should look like.
“Often, I find coming to [the aesthetics committee] with more than one proposal works better,” Mr. Fox said. He added that after meeting with the committee, artists “continue to develop the idea based on that feedback.”
Kaplan and Mr. Fox hope to get a design approved and finish the mural by the time winter sports start next year. Historically, students have painted murals at Haverford as a graduation project. Kaplan, though, is a junior and doesn’t have the free time that a Sixth Former would. So, he and a team of other painters from the honors 2-D art class will get to work on the mural, working before and after school, painting on panels that will later go on the wall and form the mural.
“We can get it started [this year], maybe start painting some panels, maybe put them up in the hall out here as we develop them,” Mr. Fox said.
As the mural begins to take form in the hall, Kaplan’s sustained effort in this project will finally be tangible for the whole school to see. Further, Kaplan’s devotion is even more remarkable because he arrived at Haverford in his sophomore year, later than most of his peers.
“Coming to the school late, you know, it’s harder to really make a big impact in certain ways and develop a really interesting area that’s going to last,” Kaplan said.
Even though it was hard, Kaplan will do just that: make a big impact by developing something that will last. According to Mr. Fox, the murals on that wall typically last for upwards of five to six years depending on how well they’re maintained. Kaplan’s mural may not last forever, but during those years, it will undoubtedly have an impact on the visual landscape of the campus.
“Having a piece of artwork like that is, I think, such a cool thing,” Kaplan said. He added that the mural combines two of his favorite things, art, and sports, and “makes them into a nice piece that [he] can look back on.”
Kaplan will not only be able to reflect on the physical achievement of the mural itself, but he will also be able to look back on his whole-hearted commitment to all aspects of his school life. Kaplan is a three-sport athlete—water polo, hockey, lacrosse—but also an impressive student in his digital art class.
“[Peter Kaplan] has been a true leader in that class,” digital art teacher Ms. Kristin Brown said. “He pushes himself and learns new things so that he can keep expanding his knowledge base.”
“I think it’s something [art is] going to be a part of my life that I’m never going to give up.”Peter Kaplan ’22
Kaplan’s experience may speak to the benefits of a Haverford education. He is a Renaissance man, equally dedicated to the mind and body, and he relishes the contrasting elements of his education.
“Sports and school are both very intense, and very like, your mind is really focused when you’re doing those two things. And I feel like my art class is a great chance to relax and focus on a lot of different things and just let loose and be a little bit more creative,” Kaplan said.
Although he doesn’t see himself pursuing a career in art, Kaplan will take his skills in art with him for the rest of his life.
“I definitely see, for the rest of my life: I continue to paint, I continue to draw, to design,” Kaplan said. “I think it’s something that’s going to be a part of my life that I’m never going to give up.”