Mural reflects students’ talents, life in Locust Grove

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Months of artistic expression has paid off for a group of local high-school students, who used their paintbrushes to help them leave a mark for future generations to enjoy.

Art students from Locust Grove High School put the finishing touches on the mural that they began painting in January. The three sided mural has depictions of downtown Locust Grove, Noah’s Ark and Gardner Farm. Photo by Jason Smith

The group, from Locust Grove High School, recently completed a three-sided mural behind The French Market and Tavern in the city’s downtown area. Scores of area residents gathered May 20 to show their support as the painting was officially unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The mural depicts Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, Gardner Farm and a downtown scene complete with a train and viewing platforms. The City of Locust Grove commissioned the students to paint the 450 square-foot mural in 2014, and the students began painting in January of this year, says Locust Grove High School art teacher Rebecca Paine.

She paired the students’ commission with Locust Grove High’s new project-based learning initiative, which resulted from a grant for the school. Paine says she used the opportunity to allow the students to complete the effort for group instruction.

“One mural -- the train side -- was designed by a team of students in my Drawing and Painting class,” says Paine. “Two other murals were painted entirely by individual students. They used the work for their Advanced Placement Studio Art Portfolio Concentration. The concentration itself had to encompass at least 12 smaller artworks to make up the entire composition.”

The students devised concepts for the mural themselves, and submitted their design to City Hall for approval. One of those students, Mandi Wright, took on the task of paying tribute to Noah’s Ark in the painting.

Wright says there are a couple of reasons why she wanted to take part in the project.

“This is my senior year, and when I was asked to do this mural it really got me thinking about what kind of legacy I was going to leave here with,” says Wright. “I chose animals not only because I'm good at drawing them, but also because I have a passion for them. After I graduate, I want to become a zoologist and work one-on-one with them. Animals are a part of me, and so is this mural. When I leave here, not only will I leave behind a work of art, but I'll leave behind of piece of me that will continue to express me long after I'm dead.”

Alyssa McCarley, a junior at Locust Grove High, also lent her artistic skills in completing the mural. She says the project served as a way for her to make a positive contribution to the city.

“To me, this project means being involved in the community, and getting art on the streets,” says McCarley. “Art always adds flair to the world around us, and for it to be on display really makes me proud and thankful for the opportunity.”

Paine adds that she is proud of her students for their dedication to the endeavor.

“It has been a very memorable experience for everyone involved and created priceless learning opportunities about creating artwork for a client, learning 21st century working skills and work ethic,” says Paine. “The Locust Grove High art program was honored to be able to complete this project. We would be honored with any future opportunities of community funded artworks that could be designed by students and installed in the community.”

The mural was one of the last projects Mallory Andrews was involved with as Main Street Manager, before departing from her position last week. She says she was “incredibly impressed” by the efforts put forth by the art students at Locust Grove High.

“It’s wonderful,” says Andrews. “It’s very colorful, very indicative of all the things that make Locust Grove great. The students really captured what the town is about. I’m just really proud of the local talent that is now showcased in the community.”