Highland Park Middle School students leave their mark on mural

Monday morning, 8th grader Tiana put down her books in order to paint some books. The brush strokes are her contribution to a massive 11-by-24 foot mural taking shape in the main commons area of Highland Park Middle School in St. Paul.

"I am painting a book, reddish,” Tiana said. “This is the base coat, but it's going to be maroon."

Art teacher Julie Elliott had the vision for the mural, and a grant from the St. Paul Public Schools Foundation, coupled with donations received during Give to the Max Day, turned it into a reality.

"What I love about this idea is it gets kids out of the classroom, working on complicated painting techniques,” Elliott said. “But it is also created by the community and it represents the community. That's what murals are all about."

Elliott asked her advanced art students to think about, draw, and possibly photograph those things that make their school and neighborhood special – things like burger joints, ice cream shops and the Highland Park water tower.

"I came up with a Jamba Juice near my mom's office,” 8th grader Cole Johnson said. “I hang out there during the summer, so I drew a cup up there. I will be able to come back and say I drew part of that, and that's my idea."

Professional muralist Shane Anderson then took the ideas, sketched out this vision and put the 12 and 13 year olds to work with his whimsical, cartoonish flare.

"I honestly don't know what my style is,” Anderson said. “It falls under urban, bright, colorful and different. It speaks more to an urban community or younger crowd."

Anderson and the students expect to complete the mural this week over the course of a 9-day painting run. The school then plans a grand unveiling later this spring where the community can come in and see this incredible art work.