Carpentry, Horticulture ... and Art? Students design murals for Tech Center

Liz Beavers
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Keyser High School art students Hailey Reel and Shane McGuinness work on one of the murals to be hung outside the Mineral County Technical Center as part of a cooperative program with Highland Arts Unlimited.

KEYSER - Students at the Mineral County Technical Center have traditionally studied subjects like carpentry, mechanics, agriculture and nursing - all of which require much hands-on practice.

Starting this year, some of the students will be gaining hands-on experience in art, thanks to a cooperative program between the Tech Center, Highland Arts Unlimited, and the art teachers at Keyser and Frankfort high schools.

Highland Arts, which sponsors the mural program that has resulted in artwork being placed on the amphitheater in Brooks Park and the front of the Law Building, and the one currently being painted on the side of Solar Mountain Records, has expanded that program to include several murals to be placed on the outside walls of the Tech Center.

And just like the artwork on the amphitheater, these murals will be painted by students.

According to coordinator Jill Baldinger, the program will consist of 16 4-foot-by-4-foot murals on the outside of the building.

Laynee Leatherman and Ethan Carr display the  designs they created for the program to add murals to the outside of the Mineral County Technical Center. Leatherman's design is "Horticulture" and Carr's is "Carpentry."

“Art students will design an image reflecting an aspect of courses offered at the Technical Center,” she explains. “The murals will encourage young and older students to take courses that are available through the Tech Center with pride, and be able to see a future in a professional work force.

“This is all about celebrating the workforce that seems to be overlooked a lot,” Baldinger says. There are so many jobs out there that are available and go unfilled because we don't promote the trades as a viable job. It seems most kids want to be rock stars, movie stars, or professional athletes. By making these murals, I am hoping the younger kids might get interested and excited about perusing the trades.”

In addition, she points out, the program will help educate the public.

“Passers-by will notice the murals and see some of the career opportunities that the Tech Center is promoting for our local students,” she said.

“The murals will be placed in the front on the long wall,” Tech Center principal Loretta Mick told the News Tribune. “There are bricks spaced as you come along the front of the school before the main entrance.”

And while they are starting with only two murals this year, Mick says the students will add to them in the fall with the addition other programs.

Students will be asked to submit designs for consideration for the murals depicting the other programs, and those designs will be chosen by Mick, Georgeanna Mansfield, and members of Highland Arts.

Students have already started painting the two chosen for this year. The selected designs were “Carpentry” by Keyser High student Ethan Carr and “Horticulture” by Keyser High student Laynee Leatherman. Both students have taken classes at the Tech Center.

Art students from KHS are helping to paint the murals under the direction of art teacher Mary Conlon.

Next year, the selection process will begin again, and art students from both Keyser and Frankfort will be encouraged to participate.

Patricia Crossland is the art teacher at Frankfort.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture, and History and the National Endowment of the Arts, with the approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. This project is also supported by local donations from Ace Hardware, Keyser Inn, Timbrook Ford, and the HAU board members.