Murals made: Grant makes school art project possible in Escanaba

From left, students Cayden Noah, Tim Lee and Riley Smith paint a mural based on the Mandalorian at Escanaba High School. (Courtesy photo via The Escanaba Daily Press)

ESCANABA — Escanaba Junior and Senior High School art teacher Cathy Uhazie has been leading her students through muraling projects for 18 years. Over the past three years, Uhazie’s students have painted nine murals throughout the school. Mural topics relate to school activities, groups and clubs.

When the muraling projects began years ago, the artists used donated paint. The age and quality of these supplies often made them unusable, however, and Uhazie began looking for alternatives. The solution came in the form of a grant through Donors Choose, an organization that helps teachers in need of funding for student projects.

When one of Uhazie’s former students died in 2019, his family created a scholarship in his memory. Money raised by the “Pay It Fwd” David Dewar Memorial Scholarship is made available through Donors Choose grants. The family recommended Uhazie send in a grant application.

“I applied and within a week I was awarded the grant. The monetary donation was used to purchase more paint and painting supplies,” Uhazie said.

Once projects are completed, grant recipients send a thank you package to Donors Choose, and a thank you is sent to every donor from the teacher, as well as photos of the project in action and a report showing how each dollar was spent.

Uhazie was ready to move forward with the project when students were sent home to learn online. She turned to live-streaming and Zoom to prepare the students for muraling. The move to the online format turned out to be a solution to another COVID-19 challenge — recognizing new students behind masks.

To enable students to practice what they were learning, Uhazie sent them home with watercolor paints and paper. The students studied color theory and practiced painting still life, landscape and portraiture. Uhazie also gave the students art history assignments to learn about artists, their work and the era in which they lived. She said the students’ hard work combined with live-stream discussions created wonderful artists.

When class resumed using the hybrid model, smaller class sizes worked in Uhazie’s favor, allowing her to work more closely with students. Three new murals were created, generating animated discussion among students and staff. Mural subjects include Star Wars: The Mandalorian, the Great Wave off Kanagawa, and Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

To keep students engaged through the muraling process, the project was assigned as the class final exam, making completion of the murals a requirement.

Uhazie is grateful for the help the grant provided. She added that continued donations toward materials will allow her students to expand the project around the school. Donations can be made to the High School Art Club, 500 South Lincoln Road, Escanaba.


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