Cassopolis art teacher Shelly Johnson stands in front of the mural her students painted as part of a mural projecet at Ross Beatty High School. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)
Cassopolis art teacher Shelly Johnson stands in front of the mural her students painted as part of a mural project at Ross Beatty High School. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Archived Story

Mural project takes off at Ross Beatty

Published 7:40pm Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What started out as an idea for a mural on one of the walls at Ross Beatty High School has turned into so much more.

Shelly Johnson’s art students were given the task of creating a mural as part of the Safe and Supportive Schools program. Assistant Principal Hiawatha Francisco asked Johnson and her students to come up with something.

After speaking with her students, Johnson said they came up with an idea that has spread throughout the school.

“They came up with what makes a healthy student,” Johnson said. “And that is not just nutrition. It’s not just getting your sleep. In this school, they decided whatever basically moves their spirit. Along with that we came up with the motto ‘Think Unity, Respect Diversity.’ In this school that is really, really important.

“It is really interesting to see these kids interact. I have worked in other school districts where there is so much self-segregation. These students don’t do that. These kids do not self-segregate. They don’t care what color anybody is. So that goes along with the healthy student.”

The school received grant money for the project and the painting got under way.

“We started talking about this one mural in particular,” Johnson said. “After a while we started thinking how cool would it be if we took positive images (like on a negative) and floated them around the building. I think we have 23 images of individual students.”

Not all students put their images on the walls, but all took part in the project in one form or another.

Johnson said they would like to extend the project into next year.

The physical painting of the mural and images began about a month ago, so there is still work to be done.

The project has already brought the school some outside attention.

The Cass County Road Commission has asked Johnson to have her students paint one of the snow plows, which will carry the “Think, Respect, Diversity” motto on it.

Besides continuing in the fall with the mural project, Johnson’s students will help paint the benches that are placed throughout the downtown area in summertime.

That project was originally scheduled for this summer, but due to some delays, they will take it up in the fall and paint eight benches.

“It will be student interest based,” Johnson said. “We will definitely carry the kids’ personalities. I would like to address Cassopolis, possibly the history. What I will do is feed these ideas to the kids and we will come up with a nice universal theme that is positive.”

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