Watford City High School (WCHS) Arts Instructor Jane Hadley, with the help of Grant Writer Mary Anderson, applied for and received NDCA’s Arts in Education Collaboration (AIEC) grant to fund a mural project in the school. The building, constructed in 2015, had many bare walls. Hadley wrote, “It is believed that adding art to the walls of the High School will help establish a sense of pride and positive sense of place for all students, faculty and community who walk the halls.”
Hadley consulted with Long X Arts Foundation staff, Director Jessie Veeder Scofield and Artist Morgan Wagner, also an NDCA Rostered Artist, to create the designs. Four different hallway murals were designed to represent the Science, Math, English and Social Studies departments. A smaller, portrait mural with the WCHS letters, colors, and wolf mascot was designed to go on a wall in the main foyer, next to the gym. The sixth mural design consisted of a large abstract, colorful wolf head for a wall in the Art Room.
Before the murals were painted, Wagner would draw the outlines of each design and put numbers in the different sections. She would also mix the paint and mark them with the corresponding number. Hadley wrote, “It was simply a matter of painting within those sections (like paint by number).”
The guidelines for an AIEC grant stipulate that projects must focus on collaboration, inclusivity, and accessibility. To that end, the public, including all ages and talent levels, was invited to attend four painting parties. Hadley stated, “Morgan and I would have these <in the> evenings from 4-7 pm. This was outside the school day which allowed for school employees from other buildings to attend, and <allowed> people getting off work to bring their children and have family time painting on the murals.” With accessibility in mind, the taller adults painted the higher sections, letting the children fill in the lower sections.
Hadley wrote, “The participants were surprised how easy the process was because of the organization of Morgan. Several of the adults said they initially felt intimidated but thoroughly enjoyed themselves. After the <first painting> event, our numbers increased, and many people returned to help with each of the murals. <The project> went much faster than anticipated because of the large turnout.” All told, over 150 students and 100 community members collaborated on the making of the murals.
The newly painted murals on the walls of the high school changed both the look and the feel of the building. “The students LOVE the murals and the teachers even more. The staff would constantly comment how much they enjoyed the colors and designs,” Hadley stated. The students involved with the project were proud of their work. Hadley hopes the younger participants remember and feel proud of their contribution when they are old enough to attend the high school.
Hadley and the students were very thankful for the NDCA grant. She said “We are just so blessed to live in ND where there is support for the arts in rural communities as well as in urban areas. The students were truly awestruck that our school was provided the funds and we found such a great LOCAL artist to come into our school.”
NDCA Arts in Education Director Matthew Anderson wrote, “The Watford City High School mural project serves as an excellent model of the possibilities within arts-based education. Engaging students, families, and the wider community, the project became a beacon of creativity and collaboration, a testament to the power of arts in fostering community ties and enriching the educational landscape.”
Visit NDCA’s Arts in Education grants webpage to find information about the Arts in Education Collaboration grant along with other opportunities available from ND Council on the Arts.