For the last three months, 11 eighth graders at Hamilton Southeastern Junior High have been spending their after-school hours and even some Sundays painting a wall at their school. Their efforts have culminated in a mural featuring students doing various activities, with the theme: “We are all Panthers.”
It wasn’t easy to come to a consensus on the theme, said Art Teacher Kathy Gammons, who recruited, mentored and supervised the teens.
“We spent the first month arguing,” she said of their brainstorming meetings in early February.
The kids finally agreed to focus on individuality and highlight the diverse activities students enjoy at HSJH. The mural shows students playing basketball, cheerleading, skiing, showing horses, playing in the band and many other activities. One student, Grant Gerbers, painted fellow artist Tiffany Nguyen eating a hamburger.
Before beginning the project, Gammons asked her students to submit an application if they were interested in working on the mural. She wanted to be sure they would be committed to the project and could give thoughtful reasons for wanting to be involved.
“I did it because I wanted to get some experience in painting,” said Haylee Driscoll, who painted her first mural at age 12 on her bedroom wall. And then she added the real reason most of the kids wanted to work on the mural: “I thought it would be cool to have my name on a wall.”
This is the second mural project Gammons has overseen at the school. About six years ago, a group of eighth graders painted one just down the hall. Both murals are near the art room on the second floor of the school.
Although the first group of mural painters are finishing their sophomore year in college, many of them still return to the school to visit their mural and make sure it hasn’t been painted over!
It’s a challenging project for eighth graders, most of whom have had no formal training in drawing human figures yet, Gammons said. She was the official “oops” fixer on the project. The students chose which figures they wanted to draw and often worked together. Francisco Michel, who painted a beautiful horse, needed a little help on the feet of a boy doing a karate kick.
“I’m better at animals than people,” he admitted.
Students who worked on the project were Connor Ashby, Stephanie Comito, Haylee Driscoll, Grant Gerbers, Katie Lightfoot, Taylor Marson, Francisco Michel, David Muhrling, Tiffany Nguyen, Sarah Pachmayer and Chris Robey. They officially unveiled the mural May 21 at a grand opening night featuring refreshments for parents and others in the Hamilton Southeastern community.