Entering the Trinity Lutheran High School cafeteria, you will see three walls with horizontal white stripes at the top and then going from light to dark gray, and the columns have Cougar paw prints painted on them.
Turning toward the other wall, a stained glass mural with a large Cougar paw print as the centerpiece provides a pop.
The Seymour school’s art department had around 20 students work on the mural, which is the third one completed.
“If you look from the commons, you want it to be cohesive with sort of our school in general and have that pop be something that’s kind of a surprise instead of being like a little too much when you’re looking in here,” art teacher Carrie Adler said of limiting the mural to one wall instead of all four.
“Our students tend to say, ‘Let’s do something different than school colors,’ and our faculty says, ‘Oh, but it’s school colors,’ so we tried really hard to have a balance of both,” she said. “That’s why you can see school colors to some degree from the commons area.”
Since the school opened 20 years ago, the hallways, commons and cafeteria all had plain beige walls.
The first mural of a Cougar, the school’s mascot, was painted by students on a wall near the gymnasium. That was made possible by a Classroom Education Grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson County.
On the opposite end of the building, a fine arts mural was painted on a wall after the school was gifted some funds from the Hildreth family.
The new mural in the cafeteria also was funded by a Classroom Education Grant.
“It has always been in the back of our minds that this has got to get accomplished at some point,” Adler said. “When that opportunity came up, I thought, ‘You know? Maybe this is the year,’ but COVID was funny about this because we couldn’t start it until it was OK to be in here all together.”
Some larger classes had to meet in the cafeteria to allow for social distancing, so that prevented the art students from being able to be in there to paint.
Toward the end of the school year, though, the art students had 10 days to get it done.
During the first semester, Adler had students in her introduction to two-dimensional art class do a painting project with water color. They had to do an illustration of what they would like to see on the cafeteria walls and explain it as if they were presenting their idea to a company.
Using Google Classroom, students chose the top five designs, and the teachers chose their favorite.
Once the final design was chosen, Adler used an overhead projector to trace the paw print on the wall so the two- and three-dimensional art students could begin painting the mural.
“Then we sort of did one row around (the paw print) and followed suit as we went through the rest of it,” she said.
“You’ve got to choose something that 20 students can come in and be able to accomplish at whatever skill level they are,” she said. “My more skilled kids came in and added the other colors, and they did the black lines and the details, where some of the others that didn’t feel comfortable doing that, they were taping. Everybody had their hand in it.”
Junior Taylor Marshall said she liked being a part of the project.
“I’ve wanted to paint this wall since I’ve been here. It was beige, and it was just terrible,” she said. “We spend like half of our time in this cafeteria, so it might as well be interesting. The only color in here was our vending machines.”
Seeing the concept come to life was rewarding, she said.
“It’s definitely a good thing,” Marshall said. “I think it came together really nicely.”
Freshman Kaydence Miller was glad to help paint, too, because she will be able to admire it for the next three school years.
“I liked how much it has changed since we saw the picture,” she said. “Since we’ve put the black on and added the color, it has just changed a lot, and it looked a lot better.”
Adler said the mural gives the students pride and ownership in the space.
“I think that’s a real element of pride for them, and they can come back years later and see what they did,” she said.
The only things the students didn’t complete were painting the common table prayer on the south wall and painting the window trim blue. Adler said she hopes some people will volunteer to help with that this summer.
As far as painting a fourth mural, Adler said that’s tough because she doesn’t want the school to be overwhelmed with the large works of art.
“We’re trying to pick and choose our spots that really need it,” she said. “Honestly, there is a section down at the art room that has a really nice wall I would love to do something with. We’ll see if we end up that direction or not.”