Lower School “Tree of Life” Mural Unites Artistry and Quaker Values

The Lower School Tree of Life mural is the remarkable result of months of planning, teamwork, and imagination.

Since 2013, the MFS Arts Department has emphasized collaborative creativity through its Vision 2020 project. With each passing school year, a new mural conceived by a lead artist and crafted by students and faculty has been designed or installed around campus. These murals include a tribute to the Studio Arts in the stairwell above the MS/US Art Rooms, a glass-based salute to instrumental music in The Ensemble Room, and a celebration of the choral program in Hartman Hall.

For the 2017-18 addition, MS/US Art Teacher Nicole Edmund partnered with Ceramics Teacher David Gamber to envision the project from conception to installation. The first stage of the process involved collecting students’ ideas.

“We asked about what imagery they think of when considering the Quaker testimonies,” Edmund says. “The Tree of Life was an idea that came out of those discussions.”

Edmund and Gamber presented their concept a six-branch tree with each branch representing one of the six core Quaker values to the MFS administrative council. As the school year commenced, they began the hard work of crafting over 4,000 clay tiles.

“We created a ceramic mural so you could see the painterly qualities on the surface and then David’s ideas from working with sculpture and texture,” Edmund says.

Edmund and Gamber used durable high-fire clay designed to withstand time and weather exposure. Gamber’s Ceramics classes helped create several hundred tiles, and with the individual pieces complete, the two teachers addressed the challenge of installation. Moorestown Construction provided cement boards cut to match the shape of each branch and tree “bubble;” the tiles were then adhered to the boards with mortar and attached to the wall.

When observers look closely at the mural, they might spot some familiar words tucked among the leaves: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship.

“I want [viewers] to see this space in a different way and admire its beauty,” Edmund says. “It’s a way to reaffirm the reason you’re here at Moorestown Friends. We all believe in these testimonies, and that’s such a strong core to this community.”

View More Photos of the Mural’s Creation