Interview with Merlo Station Students

New mural inspires teens at Merlo Station High School

Contributed by: Susan Gallacher Turner

“I’m going to college and study art,” said Melanie Jobe. “It was a great experience.”

Anna Jimenez said, “My first impression of art was that it’s hard to do. But now I can do it and I like it. So I’ll be looking for art classes”.

“It helped me to think that I can do things,” added Jessica Alvarez. “I can go on, try new things and be successful.”

Working on the new mural in Beaverton was harder than they thought it would be, but according to these students at Merlo Station High School, it was worth it. The mural project with artist, Hector Hernandez, was part of a year long program at Merlo to give students a deeper understanding of the Latino culture.

“The idea was a continuation of the Exploring Latino Cultures class I developed for Fall, 2008,” explains Merlo Station teacher Elisabeth Rogolsky. “Hector participated in the fall term, creating a Dia de los Muertos alter in our main office. It was really beautiful. During the winter term, with a grant from the Beaverton Education Fund, we were able to do a focus with Teatro Milagro on social justice theater. Spring term was the mural. It was also a good fit because we have a very hands-on learning style here.”

A total of 20 students worked with artist, Hector Hernandez from the concept and design phase to the hands-on work of priming panels and painting sky. For the concept design, students used the internet and a computer design program to choose ideas and images that were meaningful to them. A picture of the world, a baby and flowers were important to Anna Jimenez, “I want to teach our children to respect the world, to do something to improve the world, to have value for everything we have.” Jessica added, “I chose a butterfly. It means the start of a new life, a new beginning.”

A few, like Melanie Jobe, got the chance to work with Hernandez on the mural as well as other art projects as part of the Youth Summer Project. This opportunity fueled Melanie’s art interest and gave her real on the job experience, “I did the graphing of the images in one section and I worked on the mural and a couple of mosaic projects and I’ve been working with him since.”

Merlo Station offers a unique learning opportunity for students to finish high school and move out into the world. “Being a small options school, there is a lot of flexibility to meet students’ needs,” explained Elisabeth Rogolsky. “Our class sizes are smaller and each student has a focus teacher that helps keep them on track.” This kind of dedication and goal setting, are a few of the lessons students learned working on the mural. “I learned that you have to be very precise cutting the squares for the mural to make sure it’s right and not waste the paint or primer,” said Anna. “And to be professional and do the job well.” Jessica explained, “I did the background the blue color; we started off with the windows from the school. It was hard. But it was great work with all the other people.”

Originally, the mural was designed to be painted on the walls outside Merlo. According to Elisabeth, “We actually could have done the mural indoors; it was the outdoor space that was not approved by the district. Last Spring, they put a hold on all external murals. Since our scope of the project was much larger than indoor space, we applied for the BAC grant to do it as part of the mural project.”

From concept to completion, the mural took almost a year of work. The Beaverton Arts Commission worked with Merlo and the Regional Arts & Culture Council to find a location and grant money to fund the project. Although they did look into sites close to the school, none proved to be suitable, but the distance from the school didn’t dampen the student’s enthusiasm.

“I felt proud and happy that it got done and there were no problems with it, students worked hard on that mural,” said Jessica. “It was exciting to see the mural go up because I helped do it,” added Melanie. Anna said, “My son and I were models for the mural.” Jessica sums it up, “I’m proud of myself from going into that class because now I can actually see my work somewhere in Beaverton.”

Susan Gallacher-Turner is a local artist, writer and teacher. Susan’s sculpture work has been exhibited locally and around the Northwest including the 2009 Beaverton Arts Showcase. Her writing and interviews feature people living a creative life and can be read online on her blog, Susan’s Art & Words and Voices of Living Creatively.