Students create mural to celebrate arts concentration concept at Carson

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Gerrie W. Blackwelder
Special to the Post
One night Michelle Casper formed and placed 1-inch curved teeth into a skull mask of a raven she will wear on Halloween.
The next day, she directed classmates as they painted a wall mural she designed.
Clearly, Casper is the quintessential artist who exudes creativity. She represents the type of student who inspired fine arts teachers at Carson to originate an arts concentration to support students’ abilities and skills.
The concentration concept provides a school focus on the arts to encourage those whose passions run from dance to drama, and includes performance and visual art.
Students and teachers alike are thrilled to build the academy-like concentration from the ground up, and the newly designed mural celebrates each aspect of art explored on campus.
Michelle and Krista Casper’s 3-foot tall face of the masked phantom from the famed opera dominates the orange wall, which also features a nearly life-sized ballet dancer by Bethany Whitaker. A small theater tucked into aerial space will later include references to school plays performed on Carson’s stage accessed only a few feet away.
On the opposite blue wall, Stacy Thomas crafted a trio of jazz singers and saxophonists while Ashley Lefler created what classmates refer to as the centerpiece of the work. Lefler’s lifelike guitar “tree” celebrates the roots and limbs of instrumental music.
“A lot of thought went in the design and it is very detailed,” says friend and fellow painter Kristie Beasley. “It really ties the whole hall together and is meant to branch out to tie all music together.”
Nearby, petite orange, white and blue band members, standing only 2 feet tall, play trumpets and appear in perfect stance for a live performance. Art students used actual photos of Jeff Street’s marching band to reproduce the formally dressed pair on the wall. Below the featured band students will be a giant orange paw, a common spirit symbol on campus. A cougar, which is Carson’s mascot, wearing a giant band hat will be added to the right.
Faculty members in the fine arts department invite students to attempt more than one genre of artistic expression within the academy.
According to art instructor Mark Riley, “We are trying to do an outreach for kids who don’t fit in traditional school. We want to try to keep them engaged in school and motivated.”
Watching the mural unfold revealed a miracle of collaboration among these non-traditional students. From period to period, groups of artists work together to present ideas, draw them in chalk to get the accurate perspective and scale, then paint directly on the uneven cement blocks.
Rarely do students have such a self-directed opportunity to create and interpret, but these kids put a high premium on self-sufficiency and take great pride in the fact that the mural, according to Alicia Compton, “is going to be here a long time.”
What was once a putty-colored, functional walkway is now a vibrant reflection of the path of the youthful artists’ interests.
Gerrie W. Blackwelder is a curriculum coach at Jesse C. Carson High School.