Students from Summit High School are taking their art out of the classroom and onto the walls of a Jackson underpass.

Every few years Jackson Hole Public Art works with students to paint new murals for the town’s pathway underpasses. This year student art, an 80-foot mural, will be installed under Highway 89 South and in West Garaman Park.

“When there aren’t murals in the underpasses they get tagged and painted with graffiti,” said Carrie Geraci, director of Jackson Hole Public Art. “Creating art ambassadors with our local high school students is a great way to give them a venue where they get to showcase their talents while also decreasing the amount of maintenance that Pathways and Parks and Rec has to do.”

Geraci said it’s important to update the murals fairly often to “keep them fresh.”

Across the street Jackson Hole High School AP art students are working on murals with the help of Venezuelan artist and Teton Art Lab artist-in-residence Claudia Bueno.

Art opportunities can be some of the first to be cut during tough budget times. Ruth Moran-Rooks, the executive director of pARTners, doesn’t want to let that happen.

“I feel like there’s no right or wrong answer with art,” she said. “It just offers a wide range of exploration. They don’t have to get the right answer, and there’s freedom in that.”

Moran-Rooks said she thinks art “connects with all kinds of learners” and that art class is a time to “be relaxed in this high-paced world.”

As an organization pARTners functions as a liaison between arts organizations and schools. Kilmain Painting prepped the 160 feet of panels, and Sherwin Williams and Ace Hardware donated paint and supplies.

Local artist Nicole Gaitan is helping the Summit students. She took their ideas and made a concept for the mural.

“The first concept was way different,” Gaitan said.

Students were critical of her first mock-up, so she created a second outline that was much closer to what they envisioned.

Gaitan described the eventual project as being “tumultuous” on one side with red and black birds, while “calm, tranquil and light” on the other. The two sides come together to meet in the middle.

Summit High School art teacher Hillary Lavino said her two art classes worked in the lunchroom during bad weather. She’s happy they can now paint outside and that her students’ art will eventually be seen by many.

“It’s good motivation for the kids to know that people will see their art,” Lavino said. “It’s better than hanging in a classroom.”

The students are working on panels, not directly on the underpass, for several reasons.

“We designed this so they can be removed and taken to the classrooms,” Geraci said. “The students don’t always have long block periods to work from, and it made it a lot easier on the teachers and the students to be able to work in the schools. It’s also a safety issue to have a large group of people in the underpasses for cyclists and passersby.”

Lavino said the variety of art skills needed for the mural helps students and lets them “fit into their niches.”

One student, Angie Nava-Castillo, is working on the eyes of an eagle to make them more symmetrical.

“I’m really detail-oriented,” she said.

Another student, Cody Boyce, is artistic in his free time — working with mediums like photography and body paint. He likes how the mural is coming along but would like to add more detail and flair.

“I’m surprised we could do 20 panels,” he said with pride.

This is the first year that local Rotary chapters supported the project. The students were inspired to develop imagery based on Rotary’s core areas of focus. Summit High School students chose peace and conflict resolution, and Jackson Hole High School students chose education and literacy.

Both groups of students hope to have an installation party before the end of school, but the date is yet to be determined.

Contact Kylie Mohr at 732-7079, schools@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGschools.

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