Leaving Their Mark

Article Published: May. 10, 2012 | Modified: May. 19, 2012

The halls of Watauga High School will never be the same, and many students, teachers and administrators are very proud of that.

They had a role in creating what one student called “a piece of Watauga High history” – a 100-plus square foot mural architecturally installed in the commons area of the high school on the exterior of the school’s elevator shaft.

Plans for the permanent art project began more than three years ago when representatives from the Watauga County school board and the Watauga Arts Council sat down to discuss how an art project could help students and teachers transition from the old school to the new school.

The arts council released a call to artists, and a committee then selected Pam Brewer’s proposal for a community art mosaic project, entitled “Portals.”

Brewer, a Watauga High School alumnus, said, “The intention of the mosaic is to create a timeless work of art honoring the educators and the students that have come before, and to pave the way for those that will follow.

“With this amazingly powerful new work, we will be honoring the old school and the dream fulfilled with this new facility, recognizing that though the halls of learning may change, the process of learning is timeless.”

The project took place over two week-long residencies, one per semester this school year. More than 450 students have contributed to the work.

In the first week of the residency, more than 300 pounds of clay were used by visual arts students to make personalized tiles that would be fired over the winter months and made ready for the spring installation.

Throughout the last week of April, students, teachers, volunteers and administrators mixed 200 pounds of thin set mortar and 150 pounds of grout to install the many student-produced tiles onto the back of the elevator shaft in the commons of Watauga High School.

The project immediately began drawing rave reviews. Whit Whitaker, crafts teacher at the high school, has received more than a dozen e-mails praising the work as “beautiful,” “awesome,” “gorgeous,” “impressive” and “wonderful.” Whitaker expressed his appreciation to Brewer and the arts council for “providing our students and teachers with such a rewarding collaborative experience.”

The public is invited to join with the Watauga Arts Council, Brewer and WHS visual arts students to commemorate the piece in a public opening on Thursday, May 17, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the high school commons area. The opening coincides with Watauga High School’s Senior Art Show. Light refreshments will be made available, and live music will be provided.

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