The week of March 14th 2005, I was an Artist-in-Residence for four days at Heppner Elementary School in the community of Heppner, located between southwest of Pendleton and Pilot Rock, Oregon.
About 300 students participated in the mural project. With only four days to complete the total project (introductory lessons, research drawings, designing and painting the mural,) this residency moved along at a rapid pace, making it a good introduction to the AIE prgram for volunteer assistant Emma Wood, a Whitman College student. Emma's decision to take part was motivated by her interest in children's art and the AIE program itself. I greatly appreciated her assistance and thank the Heppner School aministration for granting permission for Emma's participation.
Students determined as a group that the mural would depict Heppner, or some variation of it, by selectivly "editing" those landscape/townscape elements that best defined or identified Heppner.
Heppner School has no formal art program in place. Students were excited and motivated. Because of the large number os students, individual active participation was broadened through the use of in-class programs and discussions.
Small managable groups of students at a time painted the mural. Painting groups rotated with students in the classroom, giving all students an opportunity to do mural work as well as in-class drawing activities.
The basic contour lines are marked and the mural is ready for color.
BELOW and INSET at right:
The completed mural. The prominent building to the left is the county courthouse in Heppner (Actual courthouse shown in inset.)
The completed mural photographed from its right side.. The prominent building to the right Murray's and, true to the real Murray's building in Heppner, this one displays the Irish Flag on top.
On the last day, after students went home, Emma and I contributed a little Luck O' the Irish as our contributions to the mural imagery.
Click on the two small photos below:
While some classmates painted at the mural in the hall, those waiting were engaged in a variety of drawing exercises. that required inventive and expressive mark-making. Some exercises, like these fish drawings explored pushing line to describe similar things in as many varying ways as possibile (there's more than one way to say "fish scales.")
Other drawing exercises involved the human form. Students were introduced to Contour and Blind Contour Drawing, Cross-contour and Gesture Drawing (of which there are examples of two different approaches are shown in the student work below .
I'd like to take this space to comment how impressed I was with the knowledge, both contemporary and historic, that the Heppner Elementary School students expressed about their town.
Awareness and involvement in the community in which one lives enriches personal identity and imparts the context that is a necessary ingredient to meaningful art-----and, not coincidentally, meaningful life.