EMS advanced art students take 1st place in national mural competition

By Jessica Vaughn Education Editor
Posted 2/2/22

ELBERTA — For the second year in a row, Elberta Middle School's art students have won first place in the National Wyland Art Challenge Mural competition.To qualify for the competition, students …

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EMS advanced art students take 1st place in national mural competition

The mural created by Elberta Middle School’s eighth grade advanced art students took first place at the National Wyland Art Challenge Mural competition. This marks the second year in a row Elberta Middle School has taken first place in the mural competition and the individual category.
The mural created by Elberta Middle School’s eighth grade advanced art students took first place at the National Wyland Art Challenge Mural competition. This marks the second year in a row Elberta Middle School has taken first place in the mural competition and the individual category.
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ELBERTA — For the second year in a row, Elberta Middle School's art students have won first place in the National Wyland Art Challenge Mural competition.
To qualify for the competition, students were tasked with creating individual sea turtle artworks and combining them into a collaborative mural. Elberta Middle's Alexandra Wood also took first place in the individual category.
For three weeks, the students in Linda Hill's eighth grade advanced art classes worked as one to create a sea turtle mural with a powerful message.
"We did this mural because we're trying to save the sea turtles," said student Mercedes Nicely. "They've been dying because of the plastic and trash in the water." She points to one of the turtles, indicating the item it has mistaken for food. "Over there, the turtle is eating a paper bag. So, there's a lot of meaning in this mural that we've done, and it was a work of honor that we did together. It was a group effort."
Hill, who has been teaching art for 28 years and doing art since she was in second grade, said before even beginning the mural she and the students took the time to research the turtles and sea life of the Gulf of Mexico. The theme was predetermined by the competition, but how it was executed was up to the competitors. All of the sea life featured in the mural can be found in the Gulf.

"It was really fun to work on this together, and this year it was something I understood more and that I've always liked, because I've always liked turtles," student Saylor Morrow said. "There was lots of marine biology involved as well, not just art. Ms. Hill taught us about the species we were drawing, their living conditions and what they eat. That's why some turtles are more in a group, and some are off by themselves."
Hill said the students divided and conquered to complete the mural in time. Some focused on the turtles, while others worked on the fish and jellyfish. Others concentrated on the background, or the coral and seaweed. Teams sketched out the design, while others followed with the paint. Together, they watched as their artwork was brought to life.
"This means a lot to us, and it was really fun to work on together," said student Chloe Russo. "We had a lot of fun moments and would laugh together as we worked to fix things. Last year we didn't really get to do as much with it being in seventh grade, but Ms. Hill has taught us a lot and this mural means a lot to all of us. And to win! We're all very proud of it."
Before the winners were announced, Hill said she knew in her heart her students had won. From their enthusiasm, hard work and collaborative efforts, she said they were already winners, no matter the outcome.
"I'm trying to teach them if they are positive and they put the work into it and they know that they've won, that's all that matters," she said. "Whether or not they do win or not, remaining positive and working hard are what matter."
Many of the students in Hill's class know that wherever life takes them after school, they want to keep art and creativity in their lives. Hill said during her years as a teacher, she's watched her art students go on to become leading lawyers, doctors and designers. Whether they become full-time artists or not, Hill said she's watched students use lessons they've learned in the arts to advance their careers and goals. She's seen the same love of the arts in her current group of students.
"This group is wonderful, they are so hungry for being creative," Hill said. "They don't realize how good they are yet, so I'm pushing, I'm their cheerleader, trying to push that creativity out of them. It's unbelievable when they succeed, whether they win a contest or not, but when they succeed in their work it's amazing. It builds confidence, and they're learning something more than reading and writing and math and sports; they're learning how to be creative, and that's exciting to me."

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