By Heidi Zemach for SCN –
Seward High School celebrated Earth Day April 22nd by dedicating the beautiful new mural displayed above the building’s entrance that all of its art students and a few others created. It features some of the area’s key native plants including blueberries, fireweed, oyster mushrooms, blueberries, Devils Club and Pushki, enclosed within two human hands holding samples of berries and fiddlehead ferns, used both as food and natural medicines. The mural is framed with Seward’s mountains above, the ocean below, and of course includes the school’s name, green and gold colors, and the “Seahawk” logo.
The students took a moment as a group to quietly reflect on the state of the environment, and to feel a sense of Spring’s renewal, as guest mural artist Justine Pechuzal read aloud a poem by South American Artist Pablo Neruda.
The two-week collaborative project was a welcome and positive exercise for students in the dark winter, said art teacher Bethany Waggoner.
“We lost Daniel in that month and we lost Aldin. During this dark time painting together as a group was a nice way to begin to process everything. In my mind that energy, with its sadness and its love poured into the mural,” Waggoner said.
“Today on Earth Day, as we look around at the new sunlight that we are all enjoying, the buds on the trees, we can be reminded that spring is a time of growth and new beginnings.” She thanked all the students who helped work on the mural, and asked those who designed the drawings that were selected for the final product to come forward to help dedicate it, which they did by pitching plastic containers of water filled with water from Scheffler Creek upwards toward it.
Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance President Russ Maddox thanked the students who contributed to the mural, and said he hopes that it will inspire them to become more connected to the environment.
SHS mural artists Hannalyn and Katelyn voiced a few of the student’s collective comments. They called the mural’s creation a “fun process,” but at times a little crowded, frustrating and difficult one due to their concerns about messing up. At the same time it was easier than working alone, one said, and when it all came together, the final product was a beautiful and tasteful piece of artwork. If they had it to do again, they would have included images of children, animals, and more things in the community. It also drove home the importance of art as a form of treatment and self-expression, they concluded.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” said SHS Principal Trevan Walker, in an earlier interview, after seeing the new mural, which was unceremoniously mounted by the building maintenance crew April 1st. “It’s an old building, and it’s very industrial looking, so I think the splash of color there looks gorgeous. I think the earth tones blend perfectly with the browns and greens and the tans that’s been on the exterior of our building so it adds tremendously to the overall look and feel of the building.”
The mural is part of the ongoing School Yard Habitat Project, which all three Seward schools plan to participate in, as well as community volunteers. It was envisioned by Matt Gray, of RBCA, and was funded by both the School Yard Habitat Project (through RBCA) and the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area. The grant paid for all supplies, and for Pechuzal’s leadership. Jennifer Headke of the Mural Society donated paint and drop cloths and Lenny of Seward Auto Body and Paint clear-coated the mural with no labor charge.
It will be enjoyed by generations of students and community members for years to come.
HAPPY EARTH DAY!