Students and artist join forces to work on
mural celebrating Canajoharie arts
March 16, 2012
Winslow Homer. The Arkell Arts Museum. The
talented chorus students at Canajoharie High School. The mural at
the local post office dubbed “Invention of a Paper Bag in
Canajoharie” by Anatol Shulkin.
All are parts of the artistic history of
Canajoharie, and all are now part of the mural currently being
created by students at Canajoharie High School along with art teachers Michelle
Egelston and Kathy Van Loan, and visiting mural artist David
Fichter. It is the seventh year in a row the teachers and students
have worked on a large artistic project.
The colorful 8-by-28-foot mural, called,
“Igniting Creativity through the Arts” features scenes from around
the community and district celebrating the area’s rich artistic
history and programs. When it’s finished, it will hang on a
first-floor wall at the high school.
"Our latest project provides our students with a
wonderful opportunity to work collaboratively with peers, faculty
members, and a renowned artist,” said middle school principal Thomas
Sincavage. “The finished piece will be proudly displayed for future
generations of Canajoharie residents to enjoy."
More than 100 students from the seventh and
eighth grades worked on the mural before it moved to the high
school this week. Fichter, a graduate of Harvard, is at the school helping the
students along with Mrs. Van Loan.
“The kids loved painting it last year and they
love doing it this year,” said Mrs. Egelston. “The most rewarding
part is to see my kids with a professional artist. And the kids who
might not have as much success in other subjects really flourish
when they paint.”
The mural also depicts the “Empty Bowls” clay
project, a recent kayak project by the high school technology class,
the district’s photography and culinary arts classes, and the
Canajoharie cougar. An image of Michelangelo’s hands from the
Sistine Chapel sits at the center of the mural, representing that
they are about to “create a spark and ignite creativity,” Fichter
project was made possible in part through an Artists in Schools
Grant, a program funded by the Arts Center of the Capital Region
through the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency. The
Canajoharie PTA, Canajoharie teachers, and Montgomery County Retired
Teachers also donated money for the project. Mrs. Van Loan and Mrs.
Egelston worked on writing the grant together.
Mrs. Egelston said the project is designed to
take a “constructivist approach to learning,” building upon each
student’s prior knowledge. She said the project connects well to
projects from previous years.
Eighth grade student Saymia Pinder said she looks
forward to painting the mural because of the love she has for art.
She called working with a professional artist “very rewarding.”
“I really enjoy animals and I love painting and
drawing,” she said as she took a break from painting a cougar. “I
have five notebooks full of drawings at home. And when I paint this
mural, sometimes I step back and I can say ‘wow, I painted that.’”
Fichter said the students have been very engaging
and a lot of fun to work with. He said murals often tell stories
that are told in other ways, and the current mural tells the story
of a small town with an interesting history.
“That history is important for kids to
understand. There’s a lot of creativity here and the mural can
highlight that,” he said. “The students are aware that this town and
school have rich cultural resources, and this raises more awareness
of what resources are right here.”
Mrs. Van Loan says Fichter has been a big help to
the students and always takes time to explain things to them.
“If a student is mixing the wrong paint, he will
stop and help them,” she said. “He is just so helpful to the
students and teaches them so much.”