In April 2004, I was an Artist-in-Residence for two weeks at Stella Mayfield School in the rural community of Elgin, about 20 miles east of La Grande, Oregon (USA.)
Grades 2nd through 5th participated in the mural project -- a total of about 125 students. The mural location, theme and general composition was determined, drawn and painted by the students.
This mural location included a wooden peg bar for hats and coats. Students discussed how to incorporate that element rather than have it removed from the wall. Several students made the observation that the pegs "felt" like musical notes. Music emanating from the band class down the hall added to the notion and drove all the other elements of the composition. It also led to discussions about how environment is an important consideration when creating public art. A mathematics class across the hall led to the idea that the conductor's hair style should resemble that of Albert Einstein. An interesting side note: Several students in the upper grades (6th-8th) recognized the song represented on the mural. This kind of cross-sharing of knowledge took place among the students involved in the project as well and added to the teamwork aspect of the project.
As with all my residencies, I place as few marks as possible so that the final result is, in fact, the students' work.
ABOVE: View of the completed mural from left to right. Painted directly on a hall wall near the school's main entrance, the mural incorporated an existing hat and coat peg board, turning it into a musical staff containing the opening notes of the national anthem. The mural is about 17 feet wide by 10 feet high.
Latex wall paints were used and applied with soft bristle brushes. Colors were vibrant and intense.
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 the mural's possible content and composition. 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 Friday.
BELOW: View of the mural from right to left. The piano is actually portrayed as a bird's eye view, and so it's keys are across the bottom (far left) and the piano extends fully to the top of the mural, with the brown/tan forms representing the interior of the piano.
Below are views of the work in progress.
Getting started. The first day of painting.
Silhouette of Elvis Presley completes the Red,White&Blue electric guitar.
Silhouette ballerina beside the piano alludes to classical music at the opposite side of the mural.
CLICK ON THE SMALL IMAGES BELOW
FOR A LARGER VIEW.
Standing close to the mural wall and looking directly up at it, the saxophone takes on a wonderfully distorted form.
The wall's rough texture meant any clearly defined edges had to be taped out and then painted. I followed students' chalk lines to mark the trombone, piano keys, treble clef and so on. The treble clef was a challange to tape
Violins sticking up from behind the music staff.
My contribution: Husky dog ears sticking up from one of the theater seats at the bottom of the mural. The Husky is the school mascot.
ABOVE:An idea that emerged once the painting started: A painted electric cord from the guitar extends around the wall corner and waits to be "plugged in" to a real outlet.
A pencil drawing of a saxophone (inset, left) by one student, is used by another (below) as a guide to place the buttons on the instrument on the mural. Click on sax drawing to see larger image.