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Uncommon art

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald The Baker High School mural needs completion of a few frames, but mostly just finishing touches were required  Thursday afternoon.
S. John Collins / Baker City Herald The Baker High School mural needs completion of a few frames, but mostly just finishing touches were required Thursday afternoon.
By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

This mural could be titled “Ode to High School” — nearly every activity, both academic and athletic, is represented.

And it’s prominent, decorating a large part of the south wall in the commons at Baker High School.

This project was undertaken by Kristen Bell’s Art I class (plus several advanced art students), planned and finished under the guidance of artist-in-residence Carol Poppenga, who lives in Lewistown, Montana.

She came through ArtsEast, which is based in La Grande and provides art opportunities to communities in 10 counties in Eastern Oregon.

Most recently, ArtsEast arranged for Kelly Thibodeaux to bring his fiddle workshop to Haines Elementary School.

At Baker High, Poppenga had two weeks — eight school days — to help 60 students develop an idea, design the composition, and then paint the masterpiece.

“First we talked about theme and what they wanted to do,” Bell said.

After surveying the space, the students decided the mural should mirror other shapes in the commons — squares and rectangles.

“We looked at the wall, the site, what is existing right now — this is public art,” Poppenga said.

The mural is composed of squares, each depicting an aspect of high school life — sports, music, FFA, rodeo, FBLA, welding, film, chess, PE, health, culinary arts, theater, art, math, science, language arts and history. 

Those squares surround a rectangle showing graduation caps being tossed in the air.

“Graduation is where they’re all headed, the main goal,” Bell said.

Poppenga, Bell and several students sketched the images, and then all 60 art students had a hand in painting some part of the mural.

As an artist-in-residence, Poppenga has worked on murals with students of all ages.

In addition to school work, she also did the murals inside at the Armory in Baker City, and murals for Happy Canyon in Pendleton.

She likes this large-scale art.

“I like the challenge of it,” she said.


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