“Since it’s closing, we’re not going to just leave it undone,” said Sheree Zimmerman, chairwoman of the school’s unified arts department, who, along with art teacher Ashley Dowdy, is overseeing student work on the mural.
The mural, titled “Celebrating the Enduring Values of Chester through a Century of Change,” was originally scheduled to be completed next year to mark the site’s 100-year education history, Zimmerman said. The mural is broken into five panels, each of which covers two decades from 1911 to 2011, and the school appears in all of them. One panel was to be painted every year for five years.
Students are now working on a panel covering 1971 to 1991, but the project is not just about the mural, Zimmerman said. The project ties into the school’s arts, music, history and science programs, to name a few.
The mural “is kind of a way to bring all the subjects together to celebrate 100 years of learning at this site,” Dowdy said. About 12 to 15 students have worked on the mural each year, putting hundreds of hours into each panel, Zimmerman said, but countless others have been involved in the project in other ways.
“It’s all about the kids,” she said. “That’s the main thing.”
Skylar Ward, a 13-year-old eighth grader at CMS, said working on the mural was a different art experience.
“You don’t really get to paint pictures on your walls at home,” she said. “It’s just fun, how the brush feels on the wall. It feels really neat.”
Skylar painted windows at one end of the mural last week while Caroline Smith, an eighth grader, worked at the other end. Smith, 13, said she’d been drawing since she was small, and she sought out a chance to be involved in the mural.
“It is like I’m a part of it,” she said, “and going to school here, it’s really cool.”
Dowdy said students seem to enjoy knowing they are working something that will remain after they’ve gone.
“It seems to be a really great experience for the kids that work on it every year,” she said.