Marlene Grossman, Rick Weiland, Pam Weiland and Iden Bernstein-Nowlin at the new Park School mural, scheduled to be dedicated to the memory of Lisa Weiland O'Brien on June 2.                                                                             RoundTable photo  

Pam Weiland and her brother-in-law Rick Weiland stood on the parkway at 828 Main St. on May 21, watching as teachers, staff administrators, and friends of Park School assembled a mural on the school’s front wall. Students at Park helped create the mosaic pieces that comprise the mural, and the mural was set to be dedicated on June 2 to the memory of Lisa Weiland O’Brien – Mr. Weiland’s niece and Ms. Weiland’s daughter – who was killed in a traffic accident in 2013.

A mural for the school, which serves 65 students with severe disabilities, had been a dream for the Park School social worker Ms. O’Brien and Park School teacher Iden Bernstein-Nowlin. After Ms. O’Brien’s death, Ms. Bernstein-Nowlin contacted the Green Star Movement, which had helped create a mural in Chicago that had attracted the attention of the two. As the idea drew support, it was decided that the mural should show “things that were important to Lisa,” Ms. Bernstein-Nowlin told the RoundTable.

“The quote that will be on the mural is ‘We are like a box of crayons; each one of us unique. But when we get together, the picture is complete.’ It was Lisa’s favorite quote from one of her favorite stories, ‘The Crayon Box that Talked,’” said Ms. Bernstein-Nowlin, “and she did a lot throughout her career based on that story.”

Despite the sign in front of the building, many people “seem surprised to learn we’re a school,” said Park School Principal Marlene Grossman. Both Ms. Bernstein-Nowlin and Dr. Grossman said they felt the mural would help brand the building as a school. “The mural will help us stand out and help people understand that we’re a school,” said Ms. Bernstein-Nowlin.

In the proposal for the mural, Ms. Bernstein-Nowlin wrote, “We are thrilled at the prospect that honoring Lisa’s memory will help everyone in the community have a greater awareness of Park School’s place in the continuum of District 65 services.”

On Community Day for the mural, May 21, volunteers from the Green Star Project, the school, and the community affixed the mural piece-by-piece to the building. Mr. Weiland and his wife, Karen, donated the majority of funds for the project.

“It’s so amazing to find out how many people loved Lisa. Such an outpouring. Lisa would absolutely love this,” said Pam Weiland.

Complementing the mural, a sensory garden will be installed in the front of the building later this summer. The proposal for the mural outlined the purpose of the sensory garden: “Using flowers, wind chimes, and other sensory-appropriate materials, we will create a space that both our students and the community can enjoy.  We will use this space as a memorial garden and include a brick path that can include bricks engraved with the names of staff and students that are no longer with us.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...