Painting an Unforgettable Legacy

Matthew McKoy ‘22

They say that art not only allows one to express themselves without words, but it also gives an individual a chance to remember. This past year, the Salesian community experienced a devastating loss with the passing of Mr. Janvier. Although Mr. J’s contributions and presence in the Salesian community will never be forgotten, many students expressed the need to commemorate Mr. J in a different light. Students, along with the support of the administration felt as though it was only right to dedicate a proper tribute to Mr. J, one in which encapsulated his youthful spirit, while portraying his living embodiment of the ideals of St. Don Bosco.

Considering that this was a great idea, Mr. Manning, the art teacher within the Salesian community took it upon himself to create two mesmerizing murals in honor of Mr. J’s legacy. Mr. Manning not only relied on his artistic skills, but was heavily dependent on the creativity of his art classes, which ultimately remained a driving force behind the finished product. 

When asked what inspired him to take on this project, Mr. Manning recalled the impact in which Mr. J had on his life. Adding to the various witnesses of others, Mr. Manning too felt a deep connection to Mr. J, as he embodied what it meant to be a true Salesian both inside and outside of school. From his luminescent smile, to the the way in which he cared for the young men in the Salesian community, Mr. J’s legacy only fueled Mr. Manning’s intrinsic desire to complete this project.  

“I felt a connection with him immediately as he truly embodied the Salesian community spirit. Mr. J was the first person I would see each day. His friendly smile and joyful attitude was a great way to start off the day and on many days of the week a great way to wrap up.”

It was very intriguing and awe inspiring to see the level of engagement many students had with this project. Typically, some students tend to doubt their artistic abilities, however, throughout the entire process, Mr. Manning encouraged his students to use their own creativity to create a depiction of who Mr. J was to them, as opposed to relying solely on artistic talents. This flow of creativity only encouraged the students to work with one another, and ultimately played a vital role in helping them cope with the overwhelming emotions that can result from a great loss.

“A lot of the projects that I do with the students have a collaborative aspect to them. This is important because it adds to the sense of community and spirit within a group. With art, we could easily do individual projects that speak to our own individual creativity. However with a collaborative project it really connects us to one other while accomplishing the same goals of enhancing our technical skills with a particular medium” 

After several months of hard work, Mr. Manning and his students were able to complete their project. The only question that remained was when was the right time to reveal it to the rest of the Salesian Community. Mr. Manning and his students eventually selected the perfect time to reveal this mural: Savio Day. Savio Day, the feast of Saint Dominic Savio holds a special place in the hearts of the Salesian Community, as it not only gives students the opportunity the exercise the four pillars of the school, but it also gives students the chance to reflect on the life of Mr. J, as this remains one of his favorite days within the school year. Therefore, on May 7th, the grand reveal of the mural took place as Mass was being celebrated in the Weigand center. The reveal offered a moment of silence and reflection among many students and faculty, as Mr. J’s life held a permanent place in the Salesian community. 

The mural dedicated in Mr. J’s honor had two parts. One part showcased a silhouette of St. Don Bosco, which was filled with various student drawings of Mr. J. The other part showcased a silhouette of Mr. J, filled with various pictures of St. Don Bosco. 

“The point behind doing this is to convey that Mr. J has the spirit of Don Bosco within him and that Don Bosco has the spirit of Mr. J within him.”

The Salesian community expresses great gratitude for the efforts made by Mr. Manning and his students. Ultimately, Mr. J will be truly missed, but his presence and spirit will always be remembered in our hearts.