NEW WINDSOR — Seventh-grader Shelly Cavey shrugs and smiles with pure pleasure as she describes her transformation into an artist.
Still a bit modest about what she says was her small part in the painting of an 8-by-20-foot mural at New Windsor Middle School, she nonetheless is very proud of her work.
"I didn't think I could paint that well," said Shelly, 12, of Winfield. "It looks like a person and not a flat painting. I didn't think I could ever do anything like that."
Like 20 of her schoolmates chosen to work on the mural, Shelly learned from Baltimore artist Monique Goss how to use shading to give a painting dimension. They learned that for a mural, they have to draw big, or the image gets lost.
"She made us paste a picture on the wall, then stand back to see how small it is," said Andy Hosmer, 13, an eighth-grader from Uniontown.
The message of the mural is that the Earth needs to be saved. Inthe center is a fragmented blue-and-green planet being sewn with needle and thread. Below are depictions of rain forests being chopped down, people planting trees elsewhere, a smokestack spewing pollution, wildlife surviving.
Through an $1,800 grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, matched by $900 from the Lehigh Portland Cement Co. in Union Bridge, Principal Jeffrey Kimble brought in Goss to help students paint the mural in the cafeteria.
The mural is actually on five large wooden panels nailed to a frame, so it can be moved in a fewyears when a new school is built.
Kimble and Goss chose the environment as the theme, and asked students to submit drawings. About 50 students sketched, painted or otherwise drew their ideas, and 21 werechosen to do the actual work.
"Some were chosen not just for artistic ability, but for creativity," Kimble said.
But there are, among the 21, a few really good "drawers," the stu
dents said, such as Shawn Partner, 12, a seventh-grader from New Windsor.
"I'm really good at drawing, except when I have to draw something," Shawn said.
In art class, for example, he doesn't like it when he's assigned to draw a particular thing. The mural gave him a chance to draw whatever he wanted in the environmental theme, which he pointed out was very broad.
But even the good "drawers" had a thing or two to learn about painting, they said. One boy who is good at drawing hates to paint, but can't get anyone to do the coloring in for him.
"Nobody wants to paint his drawings because they're afraid of messing it up," said Matthew Glanzer, 14, an eighth-grader from New Windsor.
The students all liked the idea of getting out of classes, they said,but not because they hate them.
"We get to socialize a lot while we're working," said Corrie Leyshon, 12, a seventh-grader from Winfield.
Cassie Gilmore, 12, of Linwood, said it is "neat to work with your friends on things you enjoy."
Corrie said she never had much of an opportunity to paint before.
"But when you're given the time, it'sneat," she said, adding that she was impressed "that we could have so many people working on one theme, and have it all come together."
Goss, whose resume includes teaching art in nursery and public schools, as well as geriatric programs,spent three years in the mid-1970sworking for the Baltimore Mural Program. For the last 15 years, she has been working through the state's Artist-in-Education program helping children paint murals.
"The point of this whole thing is to give the opportunity to children who would not normally have access to this," Goss said of arts programs.
But she said these programs areat the mercy of recent state and federal cuts to agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts, which supplies some of the money for her program.
"Where do we put our values?" she said. "Are we going to put it into the (the new Baltimore baseball) stadium, or into the creativity of our children?"