Student artists complete Grosse Ile Middle School mural – The News Herald

A Grosse Ile Middle School mural begun before the pandemic, showcasing the island’s landmarks, was recently completed by its three student artists, Leah Bouwman, Nicholas Clark and Sal Cunningham, now in second high school year.

Casey Irving, an art professor at the college, said the site of the mural, originally a simple bulletin board, was targeted in October 2019 for a mural created by students.

“They were in eighth grade when they started, and we thought we’d have the rest of the school year to do it,” she said. “Then COVID hit, so we went virtual.”

Irving said they were dedicated and determined to complete the mural, despite having skipped high school.

“Because they were in high school, they had to volunteer outside of school,” she said. “It was after school and on the weekends.”

Irving said she chose the three student artists to create the mural because they showed leadership, dedication and skill. Bouwman led the team and created the original design, which the trio adjusted as they worked on it.

The mural was sketched freehand, created with acrylic paint, and will soon be sealed for preservation. It is painted on a board, not on the wall, so it can be removed.

She said that although this is the first student-created mural she has initiated in her 10 years at school, students have been decorating ceiling tiles for years.

Irving said she has identified other spaces for the school’s future student murals.

“There’s so much potential,” she said. “I think we could find tons of space and opportunities.”

Grosse Île Middle School principal Justin Trombka (left) poses May 18 in front of a mural created by students with artists Sal Cunningham, Leah Bouwman and Nicholas Clark, and their art teacher, Casey Irving. (Sue Suchyta – Fore Media News Group)

She said that for future projects, organizational skills, the ability to work independently and reliability, as well as artistic talent, are attributes she will look for in future student mural artists.

Irving said Grosse Ile High School had many murals created by senior students adorning its walls.

Bouwman, who grew up on Grosse Île, said her design represents the images people associate with community.

“I wanted the water, because we’re on an island,” she said.

Grosse Ile Middle School Principal Justin Trombka said the artwork created by the students was beautiful and amazing.

“The artwork that’s been on display throughout this building has been amazing,” he said. “Ms. Irving is a huge part of it, and I love that it’s the kids’ pieces, and they’re part of it, and they really take ownership of the school.

Trombka said the display of student artwork made them feel like they were part of the school.

Clark said that when he first saw the whiteboard they were going to create a mural on, it seemed like a tall order.

“I thought I was just going to try and we’d be done at the end of eighth grade, and it wasn’t,” he said. “We had this long break where we just never knew, and for a very long time I just thought ‘OK, well, that’s not going to happen; we’re not going to do this mural anymore, I think they’ll choose other students, and we’ll move on.

Clark said that when contacted in the second semester of his freshman year to complete the mural, he was satisfied but also had some reservations about how long it would take to complete it.

“But, looking at it now, it’s amazing to think how time has passed so quickly,” he said. “Coming back gave me a sense of pre-COVID closure, because this was my home – I felt safe here.”

Clark said the mural is not only symbolic of Grosse Île, but represents a part of it that will remain at the college.

Working on the mural also strengthened their relationship with each other.

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“We went from friends to friends,” Cunningham said, to which the others concurred.

Clark said the project had symbolic meaning for him.

“That’s what carried me through this is the fact that I come here not just to paint something and be done, like a project in your art class,” he said. . “It makes sense: We’ve been through COVID, and this is our eighth-grade class, and this will remain our eighth-grade class.”

Clark said that if he were to redo a mural, he would also want it to have symbolic meaning.

Irving said completing the mural would have been less stressful if students could have completed it during art class, instead of having to find personal time to return to their middle school after starting high school.

Bouwman said with a laugh that there were parts of the mural they had to redo while they were working on it.

Clark agreed and said some of their skills were also rusty, as they had been schooled practically for a long time.

He said making the sky in the mural was one of their challenges.

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“We used our fingers,” Clark said, as they all laughed. “It was not at all what we thought we could see in our heads.”

Irving said she was reassured after the students explained their approach.

“It’s a magnificent result,” she said. “But, yes, there was a learning process along the way.”

Clark said reproducing real colors from nature also tested their skills.

“Adapting to the things of nature has been one of our biggest challenges,” he said. “The color of the water, the color of the trees – we didn’t want it to be like you in the Caribbean.”

Bouwman said they wanted it to represent the house.

“It’s where we all grew up,” she said. “That’s what it’s supposed to mean.”

Cunningham said seeing the finished mural was a burden on his shoulders.

“Now that it’s done, the best way I can describe it is ‘rewarding,'” he said. “Because if you think back to that whiteboard, with nothing on it, and we all thought, ‘What are we supposed to do,’ and that was intimidating.”

Bouwman said scheduling mutual work time was a challenge, and Trombka said people viewing the finished project didn’t realize the challenges the trio faced in completing the mural.

“The principal praised the students’ perseverance and their willingness to schedule time to return to complete the work.

Clark said that when they started the project, they worked with then-director Clifton Whitehouse and shared his vision for depicting aspects of Grosse Ile in the artwork. He added that Whitehouse also taught them the importance of being in the moment and not wishing time would pass quickly.

“With all the time and effort we put into it, it was almost like we had to make him proud,” he said. “It was our eighth grade year – I want that time back, but that time is over, and time is so important to me now, because that’s how it goes.

“And Mr. Whitehouse taught us that, in terms of our artistic work and our daily lives.”