Mural Makeover: Interview with Artist Michaela Olsen

You may recently have been annoyed at the required detour to get to and from your classes. That’s because Michaela Olsen, a senior here at MCA, is painting a stunning mural! She is the current Student Council Artist Chairlady and is displaying her vision on the walls of the stairwell for years to come.

Before her soon-to-be masterpiece, there was another mural. It may have caught your eye because of the pink panther’s unsettling eyebrows, the fuzzy butterfly, or just because you had to go through the third building to your daily classes. I researched the origins of the previous mural, but came up dry, only given a faint rumor… Supposedly, the mural was painted by Student Council sometime before the 2000s. At some point later, a flock of eighth graders were painting a banner when they dropped paint, splattering it across the wall and the mural. This is rumored to have led to horrid paint jobs and to discolored mascots. One day the truth will come light—maybe it’s a case for the Mount Carmel Mythbusters!—but as of now who’s to say?

Michaela is presently in the process of painting our new mural. In the meantime, she generously agreed to an interview for the school’s newspaper. You can only read it here!

How has Mount Carmel inspired you while creating the mural?

Mount Carmel as a whole was mostly my inspiration for the mural. I wanted to stick to a theme that related to the city of New Orleans but incorporated Mount Carmel, so I decided to go with the saying “For God, For Learning, For Life.” The mural spans between three different walls, and each wall has its own side to the story. The first wall, including the cathedral and motherhouse, depicts the part “For God.” The middle wall contains the mascots, the first and fourth building, and a streetcar to represent “For Learning.” The final wall contains Cafe Du Monde from the French Quarter and the Superdome leading us into the final phrase “For Life.” I envisioned the middle wall to become a liaison between all walls. After your time at Mount Carmel, you’re heading off onto the rest of your life, which is why all of the mascots lead into the streetcar that appears to travel into the third wall–the wall “For Life.”

How does it feel to leave behind a visual of your legacy at Mount Carmel?

At first, it was daunting. Putting artwork out there means you’re opening yourself up to criticism, and a mural out in the open leaves plenty of room for it. With support from my friends and teachers, I realized that as much as there was to be afraid there was so much more I could gain. Doing this mural has given me so much experience and joy, and I can only hope that one day when I walk these halls again, be able to look back at the mural, and get a small glimpse of the happiness it brought me.

What do you hope future generations will see when viewing the mural?

I hope that future generations can see the mural in two different ways: one on how it represents Mount Carmel and one to inspire more art. I hope for future generations to feel the same love and guidance I felt at Mount Carmel. Art inspires art; I want other people to take a look at the mural and encourage them to follow their own artistic tendencies.

Are you pursuing art as a career?

I am! I’ll be pursuing a Fine Arts major at the University of New Orleans. Hopefully after graduating, I can accomplish a career within the realm of graphic design here in New Orleans. Later on in life, I always dreamed of having my own studio, but I’ll need some more experience before I can accomplish that goal.

How have you found ways to incorporate your love of art into your other classes?

I try to incorporate my love for art into different projects spanning throughout all my curriculum. Anything where I can draw, paint, or sketch, I try to go above and beyond. If someone took a glance at any of my notebooks, they’re filled with doodles and ideas. I’m constantly focused on anything art related because it’s what I’m passionate about.

Do you have any advice for the budding artists in the younger grades?

My most important piece advice for any artist, or anyone pursuing the interest, is to just dive into your own work and worry about what’s ahead of you, not next to you. When I was younger, I also doubted myself and what I could do because I was so intimidated by every piece of artwork around me. There are so many good artists out there, and I was just one of millions. I stopped worrying about what others around me could do. I focused on what I could do and how I could grow. You can’t fully expect yourself to fall in love with your own work if you’re too busy falling in love with another piece that you know couldn’t be yours. Take your skills, focus on your strengths, and run with your creativity.