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Carrboro High School Large Scale Mural of First Graduating Class

Carrboro High School entrance lobby

This was the second year the high school was open, and the graduating class had started as Juniors. It was a big event for the school and the kids, so I wanted to make a huge deal and a memorial piece. First, I had to sell my idea to our Principal, who was totally down with it and very supportive of the art program. 

This 20 foot wide mural was created on one foot x one foot pieces of wood. We primed the wood with Kilz. Second, we labeled each square with a letter and number like Battleship so we could put it back together in the same way! I was super worried about mixing up the pieces. Then, we arranged the wood on the floor in the main foyer/entrance way as it was the only place that had a floor big enough! Luckily it was right around the corner from the art room. I traced the 09 design an concentric shapes in pencil with kids holding a piece of yarn connected to the pencil on a pivot point so my circles were fairly accurate. Think giant compass with string.

We then proceeded to take original photos of each Senior.

I manipulated each photo in Photoshop to make it a square format and posterized them to 2 colors. Oftentimes, I had to go back and shoot another photo to make it work. After a while we perfected the lighting to be able to do the posterizing quickly. It was amazing how much time this took. Luckily we had begun early-ish in the school year.

We projected the Photoshopped images onto the wood pieces and traced out the lines.

Of course I hadn't done my math correct! So I made an impromptu decision and drew Jaguars in the spots that were empty. I had grouped the empty spots strategically.

I created a version of the entire piece on graph paper. I decided what colors to go where with the kids' help. I wanted the faces to flip to a negative in some areas, and of course some of the lines overlapped thru faces, so we had to mark out very carefully what color went where in pencil. We reassembled the entire piece in the foyer again to be able to be consistent with the mapping. This part was not fun and we were getting a little crazy trying to make it perfect. But we pulled thru and became a better team for it.

The next step was getting the very, very specific colors mixed. It was difficult to figure out how much paint was needed. So I decided to make it easier on us and went with a high quality latex that was mixed at the hardware store. If we needed more, we could go back and get pretty much the same color. 

So for the next month or two, we carefully painted by number. I had to teach my whole crew of students how to paint very carefully. We were like a factory assembly line. Some kids couldn't do the outlines to save their lives, so they'd do fill in work. We were all excited and so positive, it was like magic. Teamwork and collaboration had never looked so beautiful.

Then came the day when were were done. As you can see in the photo, this mural hangs REALLY HIGH! So the district had maintenance men with one of those cool things that can drive around and has a basket to lift them up in the air come by and spent several days installing it. I watched their every move as I was so worried they would grab a piece out of order. 

It took almost an entire school year, and many delivery pizzas, but the final results were well worth it. And the kids learned such a tremendous amount about long term commitment and the different roles in a team collaboration. Go 21stC skills!