Inspired by the muted tones and bold, natural patterns of Henri Rousseau's work, a team of three Rogue Valley high school students and a painter from Ashland plan to turn a preschool room at the Santo Community Center into a jungle.

Inspired by the muted tones and bold, natural patterns of Henri Rousseau's work, a team of three Rogue Valley high school students and a painter from Ashland plan to turn a preschool room at the Santo Community Center into a jungle.

Initial design for the center's nature mural startedSaturday as part of the Rogue Gallery and Art Center's teen-mentoring project.

The project, now in its fifth year, links high school students with workingartists to give teens a taste of careers in art.

This year 14 students are working withsix artists — a print-maker, a photographer, a glass blower, a furniture maker and two painters — to explore new media, build skills and learn about art school, apprenticeships and how to make a living in the field of art, said Holly Kilpatrick, Rogue Gallery's education director.

At the project's design studio workshop Saturday, Ashland artist Silvia Trujillo flipped through a book called "ThePost-Impressionists" with Stephanie Symonds, aSouth Medford High School senior; Stephanie Taylor, an Eagle Point High School senior; and Cecilia Kerwin, a St. Mary's School junior. The team soughtinspiration for the Santo Center mural.

"We turned to the Henri Rousseau page and said 'that would work,' " Trujillo said. "We agreed on not using primary colors and making it more sophisticated, but still playful."

Symonds, 17, has taken advanced art classes for several years and learned about the mentoring project when Kilpatrick gave a presentation at her school. Symonds said she likes kids and thought the mural sounded like fun.

Taylor, also 17, was encouraged to explore the mentoring program by a teacher and said she's excited to work on a large project that will remain on public display for years.

"I've never done a mural before, so I think it should be a good learning experience," said Kerwin, 16, who learned about the mentoring program from fellow students and wanted to do it, too.

While Trujillo and her students peered at slides and discussed both art history and burrowing animals they might feature in their mural, Keith Gabor, co-owner of Gathering Glass Studio in Ashland, showed an online video of glass-blowing techniques to another pair of students.

Morgan Williams, a 17-year-old junior at South Medford, signed up for the mentoring program last summer to ensure she would have a chance to work with glass.

"I mentored last year and it was a lot of fun," Gabor said. "The program is growing. I'm impressed."

The mentoring project, which used to happen over the summer, now ties in with senior projects for many of the students. They also will present a show of their work — which will range from classical realism paintings to a street artist's spray-paint cabinet decorated in his graffiti-like style — March 20 at Rogue Gallery.

"It is so great that these local teens can work with these professional artists," said Heather Crow, Rogue Gallery's development director.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485 or aburke@mailtribune.com