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