Student mural takes learning out to the hall

Senior Kennedy Hickman works on details on hallway mural

Student art leaders put their skills to work designing and then painting a large mural which would leave a permanent mark on the high school walls.

“It has been really fun. It looks better than the banner did, and it feels good to know everybody gets to see your work,” said senior Carlos Dias.

Jaden Cato, 11th-grade, pays close attention to detail in his work

Community and service projects are a standard part of the secondary visual arts curriculum, said Sara Goodrich, their art teacher. So, while in previous years students had worked on murals in the local community, this year the students were asked to design and produce one for their own school.

“We like painting more than the other art skills like sculpture,” said junior Sierra Cairns, speaking for herself and her friend Hannah Van Wert. They had already taken a semester of painting during the fall and were excited to be chosen with a few other classmates to create the mural.

The project got its start when building principal Bill Crane asked Goodrich if she would approach her students about producing a mural to replace an aging banner that sported the school theme, ‘It is a great day to be an Eagle,’ hanging in a main hallway of the high school.

Senior Tris Tran carefully handles her ceramic piece

“Each of the students who are working on this have taken multiple visual art courses and are considered artistic leaders,” said Goodrich.

The students collaborated and after lengthy discussions sketched a mural design on paper first.  The final draft was submitted to Crane for approval before painting began.

Goodrich said that she has acted mostly as a “supervisor” for the project and her actual involvement has been minimal. “As a visual arts teachers, I’m very blessed to have highly-creative students who not only have strong artistic technique, but are … leaders with incredible, original ideas,” she said.

Junior Sierra Cairns likes painting the hallway mural more than taking a ceramics class

Painting their school pride

When students asked for her opinion, she said that she stepped back giving suggestions on “how to approach a particular obstacle” but leaving complete responsibility for the mural in their hands.

“My hope from the beginning was they would depend on each other for feedback and growth – completely taking on responsibility and ownership for the masterpiece – which they have unquestionably done.”

When the students first started painting on the walls, some of their classmates questioned the project, but the nearer the project got to completion, the more it was appreciated. “People really didn’t like it at first,” said junior Jaden Cato. “They would stop and ask us what we were doing, but now most think it is cool.”

Crane is pleased with the how the project has progressed. “I was so excited to have Sara Goodrich start this project. She has always done an outstanding job of giving our kids opportunities to show off their art skills,” he said. “I am very proud of the group of students completing the mural.”

In addition to painting, art students are exploring pottery and later this semester, will have the opportunity to design and screen print their own t-shirts.

Janice Holst
Janice Holst has been both a teacher and a journalist. Recently retired from a fulltime staff position with MLive, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and is thrilled to spend some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio

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