Monday, September 29, 2014

Monticello Elementary School Open House

The murals have taken up residence in their new home at the Monticello Elementary School! We delivered them a couple weeks ago and stayed for a fantastic community celebration that far exceeded our expectations!

Being an artist is often solitary work. There's no lunch break chat (well, once in a while when my friend Jon English stops by the studio!) no water cooler to gather 'round and talk about the challenges and successes of your current project, no one dropping by the cubicle to bounce ideas off of. It can be isolating, so shows and unveilings offer a welcome opportunity to discuss the craft and share your work with others.

In this case, the most exciting thing was unveiling these paintings to the community in which they will live. The celebration was held at the new school, and the paintings were unveiled at eye level so that community members had a chance to see them up-close before they were placed on the walls in the central entryway to the school.

It was so fun to see the school kids who had posed for the paintings run up and find themselves. They'd exclaim to their families: "There I am! That's ME!"

In order to control focus and provide depth, some of the figures in the paintings are a painted more loosely. That turned out to be a fun thing, because a lot of kids that didn't pose came up and said "There's ME!" They saw themselves in the paintings, which is exactly what I wanted. I want every kid who comes into that school to see themselves and get excited about learning.

I got to work with such amazing people on this project. The San Juan School District School Board and Bill Boyle, editor of the wonderful "San Juan Record," and president of the school board. He gave a great speech at the opening, which really highlighted the values of Monticello. It was published in the paper the next week. You can read it here:
His insight and vision are matched only by his dedicated support and service to the district.

And Superintendant Doug Wright, whose 11th grade English class inspired my wife (who is now an English teacher herself) while she was a student and who now directs the San Juan School District with excellence:

I also got to work with the school community council and Julie Holt, principal of Monticello Elementary School. Her commitment to providing the best educational experience for the kids at her school is inspiring. She comes by it naturally, as her mom, Nedra Bunker, has been an important part of life at the school for many years:

Most of all, I loved working with the community of Monticello, whose kids added enthusiasm and magic to the project and whose values, heritage, and dedication to their kids and their future were the heart and inspiration for these pieces:

I really wanted these paintings to capture the spirit of this community. I wanted them to be reflective of who the members of this community are and what they see as their values and identity. It was wonderful to attend this grand opening and be surrounded by hundreds of members of this community. Seeing them surrounding the paintings and hearing their comments, sharing the excitement of the new school with them, made this unforgettable.

If you're interested in reading a little press about my work and about the new school, the San Juan Record has run some great articles:


  1. These are really neat! It's great to hear about the kids recognizing themselves. I also want to make note of you having a friend named Jon English. That sounds like the name of a friend of a professional artist!

  2. It was a great event and the paintings are amazing! (And I like the comment above! :)