In February 2004, I was an Artist-in-Residence for two weeks at Cove School in the rural community of Cove, a short distance outside of LaGrande, Oregon (USA.)
Grades kindergarten through 8th participated in the mural project -- a total of 156 students. The mural theme, "Tropical Rainforest" was selected by the teachers in advance of my arrival. The theme was directly related to current studies for most of the grades. Each grade was responsible for the basic design and content of a particular section of the mural, although other grades could assist in the painting process of sections outside their grade responsibility.
I devised an overall layout that alluded to the patterned designs of molas sewn by Cuna women in Panama. The Cuna are an indigenous people of Central America's rainforests; the molas are sewn onto the midsections of shirts and dress-like garments and are a post-European-contact adaptation of body tattooing that once adorned Cuna torsos.
As with all my residencies, I place as few marks as possible so that the final result is, in fact, the students' work.
ABOVE: Painted directly on a large wall in the school's cafeteria, the mural is 17 feet wide by 8 feet high and is comprised of nine individual areas: Kindergarten and 1st Grade created the mola design panels on the bottom (based on a mix of traditional Cuna designs); The long vertical section in the middle was 3rd grade, while the sections at the top on either side of the center were 7th (left) and 5th (right); The sections in the middle and on either side of the long vertical were 2nd (left) and 4th (right); And the two tall verticals on the outside were 8th (left) and 6th grade (right.)
Latex wall paints were used and applied with a variety of brushes. Colors were vibrant and intense. (The glare in the middle is the result of my camera's flash.)
The border inbetween the sections is the underlying wall color. The first week of my residency, the students were introduced to the creative process and researched and determined their compositions. The actual painting of the mural began on the Monday of the second week and was completed (as shown above) by the end of the school day on Thursday (Cove School is on a four-day-week schedule.)
BELOW:CLICK on the IMAGES BELOW for larger view of some of the details from the mural.
Rainforest bat resting
Close up of a section that featured birds
Jaguar in one of the vertical sections
Another interpretation of a jaguar. This one has a Picasso feel to it.
An Orange Tamarin Monkey.
Several views of the work in progress, from the first day painting (left and immediately below) to the finishing touches on the final day.
Putting in some final elements and finishing touches on wildlife and the addition of a human presence in the rainforest represented by a lone Cuna man.
Blue painter's tape masked off the areas that will remain the wall color in the final work.
A brownish-red or brick color was added as a base to build upon initially and to help unify the appearance of the work in-progress.
Several students voluntarily worked after school for up to two hours each day of the second week.