Students’ mural depicts Indian symbols

As students put finishing touches Monday on a 70-foot mural featuring Native American clan symbols,
Canajoharie Middle School student Derak Handy works on a 70-foot Native American clan symbol mural last week.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Canajoharie Middle School student Derak Handy works on a 70-foot Native American clan symbol mural last week.

As students put finishing touches Monday on a 70-foot mural featuring Native American clan symbols, Canajoharie Middle School art teacher Michelle Egelston was eyeing other corridors for artistic potential.

Nearly 40 eighth-graders spent last week in shifts painting a colorful background with a river, hillsides and adding animals decorated with Iroquois symbols, each of which has a distinct meaning.

The mural spans an entire hallway from floor to ceiling and required students to tap both their artistic abilities and classroom lessons focusing on the meaning animals held in Native American culture.

Egelston said students seemed excited to be involved in the work.

“It’s created a lot of interest in students taking art,” she said.

Native American clan symbols are a focus of lessons for fourth-graders, Egelston said, so teachers last week brought the youngsters down to meet with eight-graders and view art depicting many of the shapes and forms they’re learning about.

Eighth-grader Andrea Calhoun was detailing a great blue heron on the wall Monday and said the bird, which she painted, was one of her favorite parts of the mural.

Getting together with other students on the project was another benefit of the work, Calhoun said.

Students were able to explore their creativity with individual aspects of the mural, Egelston said, but the work was done in shifts so each student had a hand in the entire project.

“This is all about working together,” Egelston said.

Work on the mural got its start in concept three weeks ago when well-known mural artist Susan Shanley presented a slide show depicting the process and outlining the role that symbols and animals played in native culture, Egelston said.

Egelston said she is hoping to plan a celebration for late May to unveil the mural and present other works of art including clay pottery and musical instruments.

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