01/11/09 — 7A EW mural

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7A EW mural

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 11, 2009 2:00 AM

As an art teacher, Beth Hill enjoys having the freedom to do fun projects with her classes.

One of those became a reality recently for her Art II students at Eastern Wayne High School, allowing them the chance to demonstrate their talents on a broader canvas -- the school's cafeteria walls.

When Mrs. Hill learned it was time for the cafeteria to be painted, it sparked an idea.

"There's a very old mural on the front wall. I asked the principal (Gene Byrd) if that was going to be painted over," she said. "I had an idea for a mural to go on several of the walls in the cafeteria."

Byrd agreed, and the blank canvas was created.

Then came time for the art assignment.

"We studied pop art -- there's a lot of pop artists that used food in their work," Mrs. Hill said. "We did a study of those artists, and assigned each (of the students) a space on the wall."

They did preliminary drawings in their sketch books, discussed them so that no ideas would be duplicated, then did a large rendering on paper before tracing the outer edges onto the actual wall.

"We probably spent about a week and a half going over and getting the images completed," Mrs. Hill said. "The process from beginning to end took well over a month."

The drawings depicted mostly fruits and vegetables, although snacks were also popular choices to paint. In addition to grapes and strawberries, hot-dogs, french fries and Doritos now adorn every wall in the school lunchroom.

The feedback has been, well, delicious.

"Everybody that has mentioned anything to me has been very excited about it and just really enjoys it," Mrs. Hill said. "The administration is also very excited."

The opportunity for practical application is one of the perks of her job, she says.

"I think that's what's so great about something like this -- I like to call it an authentic art assignment -- because they actually get to carry it all the way through to fruition," she said. "And it's a way to promote art in our community -- other students here get to see it and then if there's any kind of meeting that takes place in the cafeteria that includes people that are not in our school community, they realize that arts are a vital part of our school."

And the students did a wonderful job, she boasts.

"I could not have asked for them to have done any better than they did on it," she said. "They took it very seriously, they didn't play around -- they wanted to make it successful because they knew their reputation was at stake and I knew that our art department's reputation was at stake."

The collaboration went beyond matching color swatches and staying in the lines, though.

"I love it whenever I'm teaching art or we're doing an art assignment like this and you hear them ask, 'What do you think about this?' or asking each other's opinion," the art teacher said. "It's really a whole cooperative effort. They learn from each other, they're asking each other's opinion."

It also culminated in a sense of pride among the fledgling artists.

"One of the students noted, 'It's going to be on the wall for a long time,'" Mrs. Hill said. "Generally, about every five years, they paint (the walls) but should they choose, it could continue to be there. It gives them a little feeling of the fact that they have contributed something to the school that's going to be a lasting quality.

"I guess all artists like to feel a little sense of immortality."