Arts for Youth Spotlight
Students paint mural in Bluff City
By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | March 26, 2014Instead of painting in the studio, throwing a pot or creating some other artwork indoors, eight students at Sullivan East High School recently spent three months working outside. They were repainting the train trestle mural in Bluff City, Tenn. under the supervision of their art teachers Marcia Ross and Debra Brooks.
Ben Burgess, Grace Baker, Alisha Burnheimer, Megan Booker, Haley Carber, Megan Roulette, Hannah Tester and Bryanna Shelby were the students who volunteered their time for this artistic and civic project.
The mayor of Bluff City, Irene Wells, asked them to look at the train trestle to see if they could and would be willing to repaint the previous train picture that had faded due to weathering. The original painting was created in the 1970s, and retouched decades later. The students and their teachers decided they welcomed the challenge. They also had fun.
"I really enjoyed getting to work on this painting with my peers," says Ben Burgess. "It was a great experience to restore some of the beauty back to the Bluff City mural. I also enjoyed working with everyone, and I'm positive they enjoyed painting too."
"I really enjoyed working on the mural," Grace Baker says. "The final product from the combined efforts of our group was great. Working together was a great experience too."
The students kept the size and similar shape of the second version of the train painted by Tim Cross, but they brought back many of the brighter colors of the original 1970s painting. The original colors were researched through photographs the mayor made available to the students. They also made changes to the angle of the tunnel to show a different perspective, which took several drawings. They then painted it a number of times until they were satisfied.
They also learned that while painting a mural requires the same basic drawing skills they would use for more traditional painting, there is a difference to painting on such a large scale.
"When painting on a huge wall, the ability to see what you are doing becomes very difficult," Ross said. "Oftentimes we would have other "sets of eyes' verbally directing the artist's paintbrush from a distance.
"The students were able to see a job completed that was different from what they usually do. It was nice to be involved in something that has been a part of Bluff City's heritage, not only because of its history as a railroad center but also being part of a continuing tradition of having a mural near downtown. The trestle has had a painting on it since the 1970s, and the students can now proudly claim a part in continuing that tradition."
"I felt honored to have been one of the few to work on the mural and confident with the outcome of such productivity of the group," says Hannah Tester.
The finished mural painted by the Sullivan East High students.
A look at the final project.