13 School Cafeterias that are True Works of Art

Use the space to inspire your students!

The school cafeteria can feel like a battleground. Students get ushered in, let off lots of steam, make a mess and leave. If we want our students to abide by healthy habits and make good nutritional choices, it’s time to make our school dining areas a pleasant and  inspiring place to be. Here’s a hint! Your cafeteria walls can be prime real estate for local artists and, of course, student artists to takeover and shine.

Here are 13 schools that transformed their cafeterias into havens filled with art, color and style. They’re now places in which students not only want to eat but also go back to class and do their best afterwards!

1. Food for thought

The Baltimore Design School was in a temporary space while their new school was under construction. That didn’t stop them from turning their de facto cafeteria into a bright and thoughtful space to bring their students together.

2. Eat a rainbow

McKay Elementary School in Beaverton, Oregon used a grant via the Oregon Dairy Council to send an important message (in connection with the school nutrition program). Their decor encourages students to follow the golden rule of nutrition and eat a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables—that is, a Rainbow.

3. Sunny day

The cafeteria at Armistead Gardens School  in Baltimore, Maryland just might make you feel like you’re eating in in a sunny and happy garden. A feeling that makes the kids feel happier, more connected and even energized as they eat.

4. A warm welcome

The “Welcome to Bay Ridge” mural at Fort Hamilton High School, in Brooklyn  was created with the help of over 210 FHS students. The theme?  We welcome immigrants to the community. Over 3500 students take in it’s beauty as they eat in the cafeteria every day.

5. Healthy living inspired by students

Octavio Perez, principal of Rancho Santa Gertrudes elementary school in Santa Fe Springs, CA was proud to unveil a “Healthy Living” mural outside of the school cafeteria. It was extra special because 70 students of the after school art club came up with the concept and created it to encourage healthy living, exercise, and family among their peers.

6. Lunching under the sea

The students of Brooklyn Elementary School in Brooklyn, CT eat their lunch “under the sea.” Fourth grade teacher Robin Byrne art teacher Laura Gatlin spent a week painting the aquatic mural. “When you make it as a large as life, the kids get really excited and you won’t have a more rewarding reaction from them,” Byrne said of their inspiring project.

7. A garden of their own

“It’s a passion,” says artist Joe Wilson of Mobile, Alabama. “I paint not really for the profit of it.” He’s created nearly 40 murals in Alabama schools but perhaps his most impressive is the three wall mural he painted in the cafeteria of Leinkauf Elementary School in Mobile.  It features scenes from Bellingrath Gardens and Home and Mobile Bay plus a wall of historic local homes and a streetside cafe. 

8. Little town charm

At Mary B. Austin Elementary School Mobile, Ala, Wilson incorporated the school’s history and location into the mural in their cafeteria. It pays homage to “Old Ann,” an ancient oak tree, and the original Spring Hill school building—both still on the campus. The mural wraps around the entire cafeteria, incorporating the windows and doors.

9. A smart take

And at Clark-Shaw Magnet School in Mobile, Ala, the emphasis there is on science and math. So, Wilson painted cafeteria murals that paid homage to outer space and Albert Einstein too.

10. On the farm

In Atlanta, Georgia, another local artist named Laura Gross turned this elementary school into a farmhouse, giving new meaning to “farm to table!”

11. Cafe Style

The Catamount Cafe at Dalton High School in Dalton, Georgia worked with the Nutrition Director and school principal to come up with a cafeteria design that promoted good habits in nutrition and positive “Habits of the Mind” (part of their 8 rules of guidance and life skills). The cafe features health related collages, rich colors plus offerings from the Deli-Cat-tessen, the International Mix or Southern Chow.

12. Natural lighting

At East Hamilton Elementary School in Tennessee, natural light makes all the difference in this bright, open, airy and inviting design they have in their cafeteria. The wall of windows look out over trees and the playground.

13. An open design

Summit Elementary school in Wyoming boasts a really unique and beautiful open design. The cafeteria a place where students will not only want to eat but also give them a reason to feel excited about coming to school and interacting with their peers every day.

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Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal

Posted by Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal

Lauren West-Rosenthal is a senior editor at WeAreTeachers. In the fourth grade, she started writing “bonus chapters” to her favorite books. Her teacher was impressed — and encouraging — and a vast writing career was born!