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Personal parking: East Rowan High seniors turn spaces into painting canvases

High school senior parking lots are typically rather dull places that serve the purpose of a place for seniors who are lucky enough to have a car to park during the day.

East Rowan High School seniors have turned their asphalt parking lot into a surprisingly pretty, colorful field of creative works of art

Alyssa Connor used red, white and blue paint to create starbursts in her assigned space.

Katelyn Byrd painted red roses on a blue base in her space.

Peyton Berry painted a two-finger peace sign from the 1960s with the colors of a psychedelic tie-dye shirt on a black surface.

Grace Faller used a bright yellow background for a giant, five-petaled flower in purples and blues.

Bailey Hoseman appropriately painted the back of her car on the surface of her parking spot with a sign saying, “Life is good.” She included a pink whale like the one on her car.

Larson Waller is obviously a hunter. His space has a duck head, white paint on black with the saying, “If you see this, I’m huntin’.” If you can read the message, his car is not parked in his space.

Savannah Winter’s space has a yellow base with black writing that says, “I am not throwing away my spot.” She was inspired by a song in the musical “Hamilton.” She is a member of the school chorus.

Gracie Warden’s white polka dot art on a red background, with a black silhouette of Mickey Mouse, is a striking eye-catcher in front of the football stadium.

Principal Tonya German, in her second year at East, said students initiated the change in the parking lot.

“In my first summer here, I was approached by students showing me a photo of what the parking lot could look like,” German said. “I decided to allow them to show their personalities in the paintings.”

The students had to have a drawing of  what they planned approved by the administration. Once their drawing was approved, they had to have the painting finished before the start of school in August.

“It is another way to bring art back into school,” German said. “Some students show their strength in art, and that is important. It turned into a project where family members and community members showed up to help.”

Gracie Faller started her painting the week before the first football game knowing the parking lot would be full for the game. Using a roller for the base and spray paint for the flower, she had to figure out the proportions from her small work sketch to the big space of the parking space. She used a lot of purple since she plans to go to East Carolina University next year.

Using more paint than she expected, she returned to the store for more paint and got the wrong color the second time around. Even with all the problems she had to solve, she said, “It was a lot of fun and my first senior activity.”

McKenna Cottingham had knee surgery during the summer of 2017 and had to stay inside off the knee all summer. She spent the summer drawing so she pulled out one of her drawings to use on her parking space. Her painting was of a white mountain scene on black with the Latin and English words, “We came. We saw. We loved.”

“While the paint was still wet someone drove over  my painting and I had to repair the painting,” Cottingham said. “It was so exciting to start my senior year with this painting.”

Gracie Hudson painted a cross and filled it with mosaic art to look like a stained-glass window in a church. Her friend Anna Hester helped her.

“I go to Shiloh Reformed Church in Faith, so Christ is a big part of my life,” Hudson said. “I painted music notes on the space since I am in the East chorus.”

Carmen Fraley took three days to paint her space. Her background is red, with a golf course in green. Fraley is co-county champion in golf and plays basketball and softball. She included a basketball and softball in her painting with her own handprints. She added an orange “T” in the corner in memory of her Aunt Ann Howard.

At the first football game, her painting for the basketball was still wet and a car parked on the ball, smearing the paint.

Olivia McCallum took art at East but she didn’t think she was very good at it.

“Realizing that the parking space was a big space gave me more space for creativity,” she said. “Coral color makes me happy, so I used coral paint. I painted flower patterns and a pineapple.”

She laughed, explaining that she  painted  in the parking lot at night using her car’s headlights. In August, the daytime temperature was 95 degrees or hotter, so a large group of the seniors painted at night, and many parents came to help. 

“Painting at night by the car lights became a big senior party,” McCallum said.

One night a Rowan County sheriff’s deputy watched from across the street then drove into the senior parking lot. Students said he asked what they were up to out there at night.

He soon realized that he was witnessing an East Rowan High Senior parking lot art show in progress.

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