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An army of painters

The advanced art class at Ashland Middle School is painting a large mural on the front of the gym using a combination of ideas from nearly all 29 students.

It’s the third mural AMS art teacher Christie Boyd has instructed in the past two years. She said it’s a unique learning experience for the kids, and it adds colorful art to the bare, gray walls of the campus.

“I really like murals because of what it does for the class culture, and it’s really fun for them,” Boyd said. “It’s really great for them to see through the process of planning, designing, talking through what it means to put up a mural and why we want color on the walls ... and then they get to see through this large-scale mural project which most 12-year-olds don’t get to do.”

She said her class is composed of seventh- and eighth-graders ranging in age from 12 to 14.

Each student designed a concept, and the end product was a synthesis of all the designs, she said.

“They were all so different, but there were a lot of common themes,” Boyd said.

Eighth-grader Ema Rapp said the mural consists of geometric shapes, the school’s grizzly bear mascot, and the school’s initials, AMS.

“There’s also a quote, ‘The triumph can’t be had without the struggle,’” Ema said.

Boyd said the quote is from Wilma Rudolph, “the fastest women” in the world at the 1960 Olympics. Rudolph was an African American sprinter in the 1960s who achieved several Olympic and international distinctions.

“We’re trying to infuse the school with more voices you wouldn’t normally hear in Ashland,” Boyd said. “Last year we did a Bayard Rustin mural. He was a big civil rights leader, and his portrait and quote is inside the commons. So we’re trying to bring more voices into this school culture that normally wouldn’t be here.”

She said the AMS wording brings so much meaning to the mural because it instills school spirit. She said there’s only one sign on campus, a small one near the entrance that has the school’s name on it.

Seventh-grader Ivy Clarkson said the mural promotes school spirit because there’s hardly anything on the walls.

“It makes school more interesting and fun when you have cool art on the walls,” Ivy said.

“We’re all coming together to paint this big mural, so that’s pretty cool,” said seventh-grader Charlie Rogers. “It’s cool to know I’ve had a part in this huge thing.”

Once the final design was decided on, Boyd and her husband projected the design from atop a ladder at night onto the wall and traced the outline.

Boyd decided on the colors and taped off sections for the kids to fill in using a sort of paint-by-number technique.

The challenging part has been finding a way to keep the mural cohesive considering how many hands are working on it, she said.

“They’re my little army of painters,” Boyd said.

The project consists of climbing up a makeshift staircase and scaffolding while working with about 10 kids. The students take shifts on the mural and on the scaffolding while the other students remain in the classroom.

Seventh-grader Masa McKenzie said he wasn’t expecting to get to climb on top of the gym and paint a giant mural in his art class, but he’s happy about it.

“I kind of knew that we were possibly going to get to do a mural, but this is totally different than what I expected,” Masa said. “I’m really glad that we get the opportunity to do it. I love art, and this is a really cool thing.”

Principal Stephen Retzlaff is always very supportive of any large mural projects she wants to do, Boyd said.

“For me there is life that comes with color and art,” Boyd said. “It brings a sense of life to the school.”

The project should be completed by the week of Nov. 18.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Jamie Lusch / Ashland TIdingsEma Rapp, 13, works Wednesday on a mural at Ashland Middle School.
Jamie Lusch / Ashland TIdingsAshland Middle School students work Wednesday on a mural.