Wildcats in living color

Students creating murals featuring mascot
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Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Gresham Community School students, from left, Kali Jones, Billy Mommaerts, Ryan Schroeder, Sydney Coffman and Misty Wilson-Goranson paint a mural that, once completed, will show the eyes and facial features of a wildcat, the school’s mascot. The students have been working for weeks on the mural, one of two that will be hung in the school gymnasium.

Two white boards with painted segments sit in the basement classroom of art teacher Natalie Onesti at Gresham Community School. They don’t look like much now, but in a couple of weeks, they will be sources of pride for students and the greater Gresham community.

Students in the school’s advanced high school art class have been working tirelessly for weeks on murals representing the school’s wildcat mascot. One shows the eyes and the facial features of the wildcat, while the other shows slashing claw marks with a big G, basketball and volleyball.

Once complete, they will hang in the gymnasium.

“It’s been a process where we’ve tried to involve the community,” Onesti said. “The students came up with all of their ideas, and they’re transferring their designs to do the work.”

The process started with a lesson to students about famous muralists, including Wisconsin artists, Onesti said. Once the students learned the steps of putting together a mural, they came up with seven designs, which were posted online. Community members were encourage to vote for their favorites, and 131 respondents decided on the top two designs.

Onesti said she hopes to have the murals complete by the end of next week, which is the end of the first semester. A date for the installation ceremony has not been set.

“They’re working really hard, and they’ve got a lot done in the last week,” Onesti said.

Kali Jones, one of the students working on the murals, is still wrapping her head around the idea that an art piece she had a hand in will be hanging at her alma mater long after she graduates.

“It’s weird to think about, to be honest,” Jones said. “If I choose to come back (after high school) from whatever I decide to do, and I come back into the gym, I’ll see something that was a part of Gresham’s history.”

Jones said one of the challenges came when the murals were stenciled out and the specific colors were marked. The design for the wildcat facial features was first drawn onto a sheet of carbon paper, but there were a few spots where it didn’t transfer to the board where the final mural would be painted, and the artists had to double check to make sure they were painting the correct colors, she said.

“We would be painting, and we didn’t know what space would be what color,” Jones said as she pointed to the piece of carbon paper. “To me, that was the more difficult part.”

Sydney Jensen, who will graduate this year, has been putting in a lot of time outside the classroom to complete the mural featuring Gresham sports. She designed the mural and was pleased it was selected by community members.

“I think it’s really cool that we got the community involved and they were able to vote,” Jensen said. “When they come to the school, they’ll be able to see what we did.”

Newell Haffner, principal/superintendent, said it was important to him that the community was involved so that many voices had a say in what designs best fit the school. Originally, he was going to have the students vote on the final designs, but the students thought the community should be involved.

“They asked, ‘Is my picture really that good?’ and I said, ‘Be proud of what you did,’” Haffner said. “They have ownership of what they did.”

Onesti believes the community will be pleased once they see the completed murals.

“This is a community school, and there’s a lot community involvement,” Onesti said. “They are very artistic, and they’ve worked hard on these designs.”