Lakecity muralists teamed up with 150 Mile Elementary school students to craft a beautiful salmon mural for the school’s foyer.
For years now Williams Lake resident street muralist Dwayne Davis, and his son Steven Davis-Gosling, have brought colour and culture to downtown Williams Lake. One would be hard-pressed to walk down a street in the downtown core without seeing one of his many beautiful outdoor murals depicting life in the Cariboo.
During the winter Davis and Davis-Gosling work on a variety of projects, both current and upcoming, including planning future murals and caring for works of public arts, such the carved wooden statues installed around the Y intersection. For the month of February, however, one of these projects has been a special one for them in a variety of ways.
Earlier this year Grade 3/4 teacher Wendy Bernier of 150 Mile Elementary School tracked the two down and asked them to help design an “interactive mural” about the life cycle of the salmon that her students could have a hand in making, Davis-Gosling said. While Davis designed the mural, it was Davis-Gosling who chose to do most of the hands-on work and paint with the students.
Davis said due to the age and skill level of the children, he wanted to design something that would be easy for the students to replicate but would still look aesthetically pleasing. He settled on designing a small salmon that could be copied and cut-out multiple times and distributed them to the children, who would then paint it as they pleased. After they had done this Davis said he then decoupaged the salmon art, combining them all into a larger image of a salmon which makes up the centre of the mural.
“Any of the kids could be involved in it, they didn’t all have to be A-One artists, it was pretty cool,” Davis said.
His son observed that, essentially, when all was said and done the design was that of a school of fish swimming into a school, as the mural is being installed in the school’s foyer. Davis-Gosling said the design also shows all the little fish coming together to become something bigger, which he feels taught the students they can do the same in their own lives. Roughly 25 students lent their talents to paint the 50 some fish that make up the larger salmon, according to Davis and Davis-Gosling, over the course of four classes.
When it came to working with the kids on the mural, Davis said they went in beforehand to explain the process, though he observed ruefully they weren’t too interested in that.
However, once he showed them the size of it and started working hands-on with them they got more excited and some got nervous about the whole endeavour.
“I kept telling them, just you do your little part, we’ll do our part and we’ll put them together and it will make the whole thing,” Davis said. “By the end, the finished piece was a million times better than what even my initial design would have been.”
The students were not bound by any set mediums, Gosling-Davis said, as they allowed them to experiment with watercolours, acrylics, felt markers and anything else that was simple and practical. This resulted in many different types of styles and designs for the various fish, including one student who brought a Jackson Pollock style to the proceedings and another who painted the salmon’s lifecycle within his own tiny salmon.
“It was very neat to see it all come together and make something that in a million years not one person could make themselves,” Davis-Gosling said.
Davis also observed when many of us are in school, we work on art of some kind be it simple drawings or school projects where creative flair is required. Rarely, however, do students get to see their art professionally finished and hung up on their school’s wall which, to him, shows them the possibility of what they could do, which is what art is all about.
Composition-wise, the mural shows the salmon, created by the students’ smaller salmon, front and centre with a bear to one side and an eagle to another on a stylized background. It’s meant to remind students of the importance of salmon historically and currently for the area.
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“Salmon really are the blood of our ecosystem,” Davis-Gosling added.
The mural will be fully installed in the school over the course of spring break and will remain in the entranceway welcoming students in to class.