Union Grove Middle School now has a new mural, thanks to the hard work of Maryville College students.
The mural, which consists of 10 silhouettes of students, is roughly eight feet tall and spans 42 feet on a wall in the school’s cafeteria. The silhouettes are designed to depict middle-school-aged students who are lined up outside of the cafeteria, and each figure is unique. Above the silhouettes is the school’s mission statement, “Learning Today Leading Tomorrow.”
“It’s a portrayal of the middle school perspective,” said Lynette Webb, art teacher at UGMS.
The project began in 2007, when the administrators at William Blount Middle School asked Webb about the possibility of a mural being installed in that school. Webb, a Maryville College alumna, asked MC art professor Carl Gombert if he and his students could help. Gombert agreed, but once it was decided that the original WBMS site would be turned into what is now the Ninth Grade Academy and that grades six through eight would be moved to a new building (UGMS), the project was put on hold.
Students from Gombert’s Painting 2 class began work on the project during the spring 2010 semester.
“We started by brainstorming for ideas that would work well in an elementary school,” said Annamarie Glass, a senior art major at Maryville College.
After examining the space, the eight students in the class created sketches and proposals and presented them to administrators at Union Grove Middle.
Union Grove Middle School Principal Alicia Lail said she liked the mural with the silhouettes because of the timelessness of it.
“The silhouette of each individual student can go through any generation,” Lail said. “And it’s personal and everlasting because of the mission statement.”
The actual construction of the mural took place during the fall 2010 semester, with students in Gombert’s Drawing 3 class.
“It took us about two and a half weeks of steady working to get it done,” said Glass, who was involved in the project during both semesters.
The main figures of the mural were cut from wooden boards with a power saw and painted black to look like silhouettes, said MC junior Mauriel Rodriguez, who was in Gombert’s Drawing 3 class. The boards and lettering were prepared in the classroom and brought to UGMS in November to assemble on the wall.
“Working on this mural was definitely different from the way I usually work,” Rodriguez said. “Usually I’ll sit or stand in front of my drafting desk and start painting, but this project was huge - the biggest I’ve finished so far.”
There are some unique touches added to the silhouettes. The edges of the figures are painted orange, and the mission statement is painted blue - the school’s colors. A black line was added to the bottom of the mural, which “adds depth and perspective,” Webb said.
There are also a few hidden items, or “mystery bonus prizes,” as Gombert calls them. If one looks closely at the silhouettes, the letters “UGMS” appear on backpacks, and items like earrings can be seen on some of the figures.
This is the sixth mural that Gombert’s students have installed. Former classes designed three murals for the federal government, as well as one for the Blount County nonprofit organization Mane Support.
“Projects like these are good for students because they are ‘real world’ projects,” Gombert said. “Rather than classroom exercises, students get to work with real clients to create art that people interact with. Plus, this is a great opportunity for the art department and the College to be part of the community.”
Webb said the school is very pleased with the mural.
“The kids love it, and the administrators are thrilled,” Webb said. “We’re very grateful. The students are so talented and were very giving of their time. It was great for our students to be able to see the work (MC students) did at the college level.”
Rodriguez said she is glad that she had the opportunity to work on the mural.
“I think that the mural is meant to inspire the middle schoolers to take their education seriously now so that they can use what they’ve learned to become better leaders in the future,” Rodriguez said. “It was a great learning experience, and I hope that we’ve succeeded in inspiring the Union Grove students.”