EDITOR’S NOTE: “Waldport’s Crestview Heights School unveils massive, student-designed tile mural,” Quinton Smith’s story about a mural project at Waldport’s Crestview Heights School, was published originally on June 2, 2022, by YachatsNews.com, an ArtsWatch Community Partner. ArtsWatch is republishing the piece with permission.
After two years of battling COVID-19 restrictions and some troublesome behaviors, Cristal Arden wanted something to help bring students at Crestview Heights School in Waldport back together.
A project that anyone who wanted to could help design and build.
Drawing on her experience 16 years ago with a large mosaic-tiled mural that now graces the front of the school, the special education teacher brainstormed with other staff, came up with an idea, and contacted a longtime coastal arts group to see if they could collaborate again.
Thursday evening, students, staff, and parents at Crestview Heights and Waldport Middle/High schools dedicated a 24-foot-long mural in the courtyard that connects the three schools.
THE ART OF LEARNING: An occasional series
Called Acts of Kindness, the six panels combined student designs ranging from planting a tree to lending a hand, from sharing food to returning a bird to its nest – all painstakingly depicted by more than 100,000 pieces of tile.
“We were looking for a positive message coming out of the pandemic,” said Arden, who, like others at Crestview and at schools across Oregon and the country, saw many students struggle with behavior once schools reopened last year and masks came off this year. “We had to get used to getting back together.”
Back in 2006, Arden worked with the Oregon Coast Children’s Theatre & Center for the Arts to help create a mural at the front of the school. The 30-year-old nonprofit is based in Lincoln and Tillamook counties and brings theater and arts projects to mostly rural schools in Oregon, Southwest Washington, and some western states.
It had shut down most of its school and library programs during the pandemic, said Larry Adrian of Toledo, the group’s founder and artistic director, and was anxious to resume that work.
“The kids and teachers have been through hell to keep functioning,” Adrian said. “We were pleased to return for this size of a project in a school.”
He met with school staff, and they came up with a plan – involve every student by inviting them to submit a drawing showing an act of kindness. Then, taking the ideas of 16 students and one instructor, Adrian and his artistic staff came up with a design and the tile colors needed to pull it off.
“This was an unusual design because it was mainly a people mural,” he said, compared to the usual more scenic murals the nonprofit has created – including the Where the Forest Meets the Sea mural near Crestview’s entrance.
There are 22 people in the mural to depict the year 2022, Arden said. Each act of kindness is inside a tiled circle.
The arts group has done many mosaic projects and has a big stash of donated tile. Once colors were selected and tiles found to match, the nonprofit’s staff, volunteers, and students at a Tillamook County school began cutting them into tiny-to-small pieces.
Then they came to school, set up in a large room and over two weeks had every class help glue the tiles in the right places with the help of 14 middle/high school mentors.
Adrian and his crew then did the cleanup work and grouting.
The result, Arden said, “is bright and cheerful.”
Adrian said projects like the Crestview mural are important not only to get students involved in a hands-on project, but also to pique a possible longer-term interest in the arts.
“We’re an educational theater-and-arts program that focuses on underserved schools in rural areas,” he said. “There are a lot of little communities we go to that don’t have fine or theater arts. We’re just trying to keep the arts alive for these kids.”
The massive mural project may have rubbed off on the middle and high school students who helped the younger Crestview students. They’re now talking about tackling a mural or statue of their own using a mosaic design and tile.
“They’re jazzed,” Arden said, “and want to do another on the middle and high school side of the courtyard.”
The mural was based on the designs of students Shyanne Anderson, Logan Banta, Scarlette Browne, Charlie Bynum, Chazz Elliott, Dakota Fitzgerald, Katie Holt, Abram Hooser, Alyssa Jennings, Emma Kolar, Myah Van Meter, Liam Pollett, Paisley Stern, Jasmine Burton-Stubbs, Avery Torres, Jonah Tysman, and instructor Sarah Harris.