A new work of art is gracing a public wall, but the artist isn’t who you might expect.
Recently completed along the pedestrian pathway just south of Garaman Park, the town of Jackson’s latest mural was created by a group of middle school girls.
Their artwork is a large-scale depiction of the Teton Range with the Snake River flowing down into the valley. The words “Keep our beautiful water clean” are painted boldly across the scene.
“If we want to keep this a beautiful place, then we have to protect the water,” said Sarah Palazollo, a rising freshman who worked on the project.
The mural is part of Jackson Hole Public Art’s Wild Walls program, which promotes a better understanding and awareness of local water quality issues. The students are part of Girls Actively Participating, better known as GAP, a program that promotes the growth of young girls through education and community connections.
Between 20 and 25 girls worked on the mural.
“At that age they are so capable,” said Natalie Connell, an artist who led the project. “It was fun to mostly just guide them and let them have a lot of freedom with what they wanted to create.”
The project got started when a representative of Protect Our Water Jackson Hole visited with GAP students to present some common issues facing the protection of Jackson’s mountain water supply.
The girls then sought to interpret these issues, which included trash disposal, poor septic systems, pesticides on lawns and fields, and pet and livestock waste.
“It was really important to me to try to frame the issues in more of a positive light,” Connell said. “Especially in the environmental conversation, I think it can often just feel out of our hands. But the reality is the issues we are facing with water quality in Jackson Hole are entirely manageable if our community decides to take action.”
The girls began drawing immediately following the presentation, then compiled their ideas into one cohesive piece. For the next four weeks they spent their after-school hours painting 20 individual panels to form the 80-foot-long mural.
Palazollo, who has been part of GAP since she was in sixth grade, said she appreciated how much creative freedom she and her fellow students were given.
“[We put] together a bunch of different ideas,” Palazollo said. “I liked that we got most of the control over it.”
She hopes the mural will bring more awareness about issues of water quality to the community of Jackson.
“A lot of times we don’t realize that what we’re doing can be so damaging,” Palazollo said. “I hope people see the mural and realize they can change what they’re doing to make an impact.”
Connell agrees. She said maintaining local water quality is as simple as cleaning up after pets, not over-fertilizing lawns, not littering and making sure septic tanks function correctly.
“I hope people realize their choices matter,” Connell said. “I hope our community really decides to own the reality that we have the power to protect our waters, and to make the little changes necessary to be sure our water stays beautiful.”