For the first two weeks in November, River Rock School students were immersed in creating four murals with a river theme that now adorn the entryway to the school. Mural artist Sarah-Lee Terrat of Waterbury was in residence at the school as part of an Artist in Schools program funded by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. In her trademark paint-spattered white overalls, Terrat worked each day from 8:30 am-1 pm guiding multi-age groups (K-8) to design and paint the 12 panels that comprise the four murals.
The mural project has a theme of “rivers.” The panel designs are bright and whimsical scenes of river life — along the water, in the water, above the water and below it. As part of the project, students learned about the ecology of rivers and studying river life. Terrat gave a PowerPoint presentation and led a discussion on the theme of “river” and artists’ treatments of the theme. “Her intention with that was to show lots of different views of water,” said teacher Shawnee Perry. “And how different artists — van Gogh, Monet — portrayed water.”
Besides providing inspiration, Sarah-Lee also exposed the students to different painting techniques and taught them about the planning that goes into the creation of a big piece of art. During the first week of the residency, students took a field trip to Sarah-Lee’s art studio, giving them a unique opportunity to see her creative working environment and various works in progress.
Terrat, a Vermont artist who for many years worked for Ben & Jerry’s designing everything from scoop shops to corporate offices to the factory tour, designed and painted murals that presently adorn the walls of the Vermont Children’s Hospital, the Echo Leahy Center, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, NRG Systems, the Daily Planet and Arvad’s Restaurant.
What do River Rock students have to say about the experience?
“I learned a lot of painting techniques and I learned about fishes, especially brook trout. Fish are very colorful and they don’t have to be one color because they are actually lots of colors.”
“It was fun to paint because it was such a big project. Painting is fun in general although I would say I choose it rarely. Doing the mural project has made me want to paint more on my own.”
“I learned that paintings that come to life take a lot of steps and that’s what we worked on really hard.”
“I got to work with people I don’t usually work with—we mixed all up with different groups.
“What did I love most about the project? EVERYTHING.
The murals were unveiled to the school community at the Harvest Dinner on November 22 and were showcased at River Rock’s art show in the Montpelier Art Walk on Dec. 6.