Blue heron finds place to roost at middle school Mural: Students at George Fox Middle School, who chose a classmate's design of a marsh scene to fill a blank wall in the school lobby, will finish their painting today.

February 28, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

Careful when entering the lobby of George Fox Middle School in Pasadena not to step into the marsh or bump into the great blue heron.

Well, it's not a real marsh or live bird -- but a mural a group of George Fox Middle School students will finish painting today at the school's entrance.

Eighth-grader Angela Thompson, 13, won a schoolwide competition for the best design to fill one of the school's walls and, with the help of an artist-in-residence and almost two dozen of her schoolmates, she helped turn her sketch into a larger-than-life mural.

"I was really happy that my design was chosen," said an ebullient Angela. "And if my kids go there, they'll be able to brag, 'My mom designed that.' "

Almost a year ago, Bonnie J. Schupp, an enrichment teacher who works on projects involving all 1,000-plus students, noticed how many blank walls there were there.

"There are many areas where the walls are not attractive just all bare," she said.

She suggested commissioning an artist-in-residence to work on a sprucing-up project involving students doing large paintings over several years.

The school set aside $1,200, matched by the Maryland Arts Council, to hire an artist for 20 days to work on the project. That brought a council artist, John Viles, on board.

At a January assembly, Viles, 39, of Baltimore encouraged students to design a mural.

Those whose work showed artistic possibilities -- 18 George Fox Middle students in all -- became his "core group," and he asked them to scout the school for the right blank wall.

Then, they took a photograph of the wall, drew in the murals they envisioned and submitted them for a schoolwide vote. Angela won.

"Very democratic," said Viles. "They get what they all want."

He had hoped, he said, for something a little different. "But it's not up to me," he said. "What do I know? I'm from Missouri."

The vote was completed at the end of last month, and the 18 students together made a scale drawing with a grid. With careful measuring, they transferred the grid to the wall.

"It's all very collaborative," Viles said. "Maybe I touched up a drop or two or demonstrated, but I didn't paint this."

The students did -- sometimes spending two class periods a day, three days a week. The completed project is a 36-foot-long, 12-foot-high mural on a curved wall on the lobby's left side. Its blue, green, and earth-toned hues of latex paint depict a great blue heron in a marshy foreground dotted with cattails, and a footbridge in the background leading to a mountainous landscape.

Angela said the experience was fun, except for one little problem: "My mom was, like, getting on my case a little bit because I got some of my clothes messed up."

Viles said the participants did well.

"They're trying to do what they normally do in a school day and this, so they're exceptional students if they can make it through this project."

Pub Date: 2/28/97

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