A ceramic tile mural depicting native plants was unveiled at Gardenside Park Tuesday evening, and the artists were as eager to see what it looked like as anyone else.
Paul Laurence Dunbar High School students created the mural under the direction of art teacher Debbie Eller and artist Elise Melrood. Many of the tiles feature native plants used in a stream restoration project at the park.
The students created their individual tiles last spring, but they hadn’t seen them after the final firing. Katie Yoder, who graduated from Dunbar in May, said she was eager to see the completed project.
“Everyone’s going to be a little surprised today to see what they actually look like,” she said. “I’m real excited that something that I made is actually up.”
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You get to use your passion for doing good in the world.
Taylor Wright, who created one of the tiles
Yoder and the other 26 student artists were part of Eller’s Advanced Placement Art Studio and honors art class.
The mural and stream restoration projects were supported by a Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Stormwater Quality Projects Incentive Grant. The Gardenside Neighborhood Association received a $16,100 grant for fiscal year 2017, as well as other grants in previous years. The mural fulfills part of the educational mission of the grant.
Since 2014, neighbors in the Gardenside area, with help from the Friends of Wolf Run, have worked to clean up the stream and have planted hundreds of native trees, shrubs and flowering plants along its banks. The stream is part of the Wolf Run Watershed, which feeds into Town Branch and the Kentucky River.
“It prevents erosion. It filters out the pollutants that stormwater brings down,” said Susan Spalding, president of the neighborhood association. “It also provides habitat” for wildlife in the area.
“It’s really important that we take care of our stream,” Spalding said.
Melrood, a retired art teacher who taught at Model Laboratory School in Richmond, lives in the Gardenside neighborhood. She said she was inspired by a similar mural she saw at U.C. Davis that was a collaboration between art and science professors.
She said many of the flowers depicted by the mural will be visible to park visitors.
Using photographs as a guide, the students drew the native plants on paper, then placed their drawings atop a slab of clay and traced over them to create an imprint of the image, Eller said. They used clay to build up the imprint into a 3-D image before the tiles were fired in a kiln, painted and then fired again.
“Before this, I didn’t really have a lot of ideas on how art could really influence the outer world,” said Taylor Wright, who created one of the tiles. Through community projects, “you get to use your passion for doing good in the world.”