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Creativity to Spare

High School Teams Make Their Marks on Local Alley


Sparta Lanes in downtown Sparta got a bit of a makeover recently with help from some local high school students.

The alley is home to their bowling teams, and now bears original artwork from the bowlers themselves, with Kent City represented on one wall, and Sparta on the opposite wall.

For owner Gordon Slater Jr., everything fell into place when the students signed on for the task.

Kent City students roll a layer of white over the previous wall art to begin their mural project (courtesy Amy Foster)

“This was a win-win,” Slater said. “It’s good for me as a business owner to have the community involved, and it’s great to have the schools involved.”

Students in Amy Foster’s Kent City High School art class developed their own designs, the best of which were combined into the final version. Most of the final design was junior Ryan Kik’s creation, which incorporates farmland, athletics and the school mascot.

“I wanted to involve the school community, as in our sports as well as our culture,” Foster said. “I thought I’d want to add those two together.”

Ryan said the process has been a whirlwind, but a good learning opportunity as she hopes to pursue a career in art or design.

“It was definitely a lot of fun to see the white wall, and the whole thing’s up in a day,” she said. “It’s a good bonding experience.”

Foster asked her students to treat the assignment as if they were commissioned to do a professional project, and think of themselves as real working artists. While some were hesitant to make their mark on the wall, she saw them also take charge and ownership.

“They’re gaining a lot of confidence,” Foster said. “Now they’re just owning it — some that have come out of their shell with this, and some I knew would be leaders who stepped up.”

Sparta High School students brush on a mural of their own creation at Sparta Lanes (courtesy Donald Crawford)

Working Hard, Making Friends

Sparta High School art teacher Donald Crawford, who oversaw his students’ contributions, said 17 artists played a role in the overall design of their mural, while junior Madi VanLaan’s design largely influenced the final result.

The Spartans took fewer than 15 hours to complete the mural, Crawford said. “I have not witnessed a group of teenagers that worked harder or cooperated better than this group did,” he said.

For sophomore Paige Bender, it was also an opportunity to build new friendships.

“I met new people and made new friends, all within two days,” she said. “Everyone seemed to have a great time, singing and dancing to the music that was playing in the background. There was never a dull moment.”

Slater, who served trays of pizza to the students, asked only that a quote from his late father, Gordon Slater Sr., be incorporated: “Good luck and good scores!” This, along with the rest of the design, was projected onto the wall for the initial outlines before splashes of color filled the white canvas of brick.

“Without me saying a word, they both incorporated the apple community, which is huge for both communities,” Slater said. “They put the mitten where Kent City is and Sparta’s got the mitten where Sparta is. I never asked for either one of them.”

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