Making nature come alive
What if a painted mural could come to life?
Well, Wilsonville High School students and art teacher and art director Christopher Shotola-Hardt will be adding 3-D elements to do just that with the landscape mural they've spent the last two school years working on for the Wilsonville CREST campus.
The mural was a commission for Bob Carlson, director of CREST, who wanted the mural to involve a water cycle and to visually show what happens at CREST. Teacher Judy Morris-Green and instructional assistant John Steele, along with special education students and peer mentors in the unified green technology class, and others, started installing the 11 panels — most being 8 feet tall by 4 feet wide — in mid-December. The installation is going on the facade of a building to the left as you drive into the main CREST campus adjacent to Inza R. Wood Middle School on Wilsonville Road.
"There's a barn where they park their vehicles and have all the equipment; it's a green metal corrugated structure on the backside that faces the road — that's where the mural is," Shotola-Hardt said. "So when it's all in, hundreds and hundreds of people are going to see that every single day."
Shotola-Hardt remembers when Carlson first approached him, years before they agreed to start the mural project.
"We were embroiled in producing the Beauty in the Bridge tile mural under the freeway," said Shotola-Hardt, adding that about 1,000 students from Wilsonville in grades 3-12 took two-and-a-half years with massive funding from ODOT and Wilsonville Urban Renewal to complete the project.
"So we were busy with that, and then after that, I was working on a kinetic sculpture for SmartBus with a couple of advanced art students and a metal sculptor so (Bob) had to wait; take a number."
It wasn't until spring 2014 when they made contact with Carlson and came up with a maquette of what the mural would look like. The painted mural was completed in 2016 after students worked on the project during art club every Wednesday, and when it came crunch time, completed the work outside of club time.
Thus, the mural was ready to be installed this school year.
"I wanted to be a part of it because in general I love art and like to meet new people," WHS sophomore Maile Campos said. "I think the mural itself is really cool for the community because people get to see it everyday and they get to see a landscape that's very nice to look at when you're commuting to work. ... It's just kind of a cool thing to integrate students into the community."
And this is exactly what Shotola-Hardt wants the public to see: how the community supports local schools. He also wants the artwork in the community to be an insight into what Wilsonville is all about.
"My hope is that when we start getting two-dimensional murals and things, people see how that livens a space and brings a sense of purpose and liveability," he said. "We want people to be welcomed; we want safe passage; there's beauty; it says something about the community when (people) come in and then to know 'Wow kids did this?' ... It's a gateway into our community."
But painting the mural was only phase one of the project.
After the mural is completely installed, art students will begin to add 3-D elements.
"In the mural you'll see a fence that comes through, but when it gets to a certain point, we are going to build a real fence that comes onto the berm," said Shotola-Hardt, adding that there is a small barkdust hill — or berm — that extends from the mural. "On the other side of the fence it will look like it drops down into a canyon. We're going to put real big boulders in front of it that will come up onto the berm. Then we are going to do some plantings to make it look like there's a stream that starts up on the berm and empties in a waterfall going over the edge that you can't see. We will have some sculptural, maybe bronze salmon that are jumping into the air."
Shotola-Hardt said there will be real planters extended from the area that has painted planters, and it will be filled with indigenous plants that no one will need to care for. There is also a painted tree and he plans on using sculpture material to make it a physical tree with some branches that come out. Carlson wants to add bird houses and bird feeders to it as well.
"It'll be like Disneyland where you've got three-dimensional things that you can inhabit and interact with, going back into a scene," Shotola-Hardt said.
The 3-D elements will likely be a second-semester endeavor but a dedication ceremony that will be open to the public will be scheduled once the mural is installed.