The Ewing High School Art Club has produced a variety of works through the years, but nothing like this year’s mural project.
Their creation—a mural titled “Ewing in a Nutshell” that pays tribute to Ewing’s rich history—was unveiled on June 18 and now hangs on the second floor of the Ewing Township municipal building.
“I feel really proud,” said EHS junior Mikalah Ellis. “I feel accomplished and a part of something. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
The mural is a big change from what art club has done during Ellis’ previous two years. It was a chance for the members of the club—Sade Adeaca, Amanda Alexandre, Kaleigh Dekis, Ellis, Maia Leonard, Christian Rodas and Cameron Rodriguez—to get involved with something bigger than usual.
“I started art club freshman year,” said Alexandre, also a junior. “In the fall, we’d create crafts for Crafts in the Meadow at Tyler State Park. It’s a way to raise funds for art club because we sell them at the festival. We do pretty well. We also do pumpkin carving and sell them to teachers in the school district.”
The mural is the product of a new focus this year. The students’ contributions are credited on a plaque above the mural.
“They’re really into it,” said Lauren Weber, an art club advisor along with Sam DeCavalcante. “We have a solid crew of seven students. They’ve been dedicated for the project from the start.”
This academic year began with the art club taking on a new task.
Mayor Bert Steinmann commissioned the Ewing Township Art Commission to paint a mural, and Weber, a member of the Arts Commission, thought immediately of the art club.
The mural draws on the support of the mayor, the Ewing Township Council, the Art Commission and the Ewing School Board.
“It was a way that community groups could connect through the arts,” Weber said. “It was a smooth transition for this to happen. I’m aware of all the happenings and being an advisor to the art club, I was able to coordinate the whole process.”
It started with getting the students on board with a lengthy commitment. They met once per week over the entire school year until the final weeks in June, when they met twice per week to finish off the project. In all, they estimate it took at least 80 hours of work as a group.
Weber said that in the end it was worth every minute. “It feels very empowering for them. I think they feel like they’ve been a main part of the whole process. They did planning and creation and they gave their ideas. They’ve been able to actually create bonds and I feel like get to know each other. A few of the students I overheard, they’ve become friends. They didn’t know each other before this or talk.”
She adds that the project has helped the students make connections, while also learning about historical aspects of the town, helping them take pride in where they live, and gaining respect for people who have grown up in Ewing.
“It’s a great thing to connect them to the community.” Weber said. “They do have an important job. It’s going to be somewhere permanent. It’s a very big deal.”
The art club met early in the process with the township Patriotic Committee to get ideas for the mural. It was the first step in connecting the mural to the community.
“I thought it helped a lot,” said Rodas, who is a freshman. “We didn’t really know the true history of Ewing. When they came in here, they gave us some insight of their memories of living here. It gave us a sense of how we’d draw their memories with how they envisioned it. I was thinking personally, we can do those ideas from their memories and childhood and growing up here.”
The students still had to pare down the ideas and figure out how to coordinate them and depict them in the mural. It was a challenge to starting out the project, and they had to get their ideas approved before they could begin the mural.
“What could we come up with, and then which ones could we decide to put in there and how we’d execute it,” Rodas said. “What colors would we use? Where would we place this, and where would we place that? Or what would the finishing touches be? It was honestly frustrating for me. Right now, where we are, we managed to fix that a lot. I’m happy with everything we’ve done.”
Scenes from Ewing and its history in the mural include the water tower; the township’s parks and natural landscapes; George Washington and revolutionary war soldiers, the municipal building, the clock tower at EHS, and the jet that is located in Veteran’s Memorial Park.
‘You get to contribute to something you don’t get to see every day. It comes once in a lifetime. You just have to take your chance.’
There was also the fact that the students came from different art backgrounds. They all had different strengths.
“Trying different styles that you never did before was hard,” said Adeaca, a freshman. “I never did realistic, I always did cartoons. It was kind of difficult, but it turned out to be pretty nice looking.”
Added Alexandre: “In the beginning, no one really knew how to paint well. And we started off as beginners so we were all pretty scared. We’re learning all together so it’s going pretty well.”
Doing the project together was the key to having it come out well. Though the students didn’t know everyone in their group, they learned to work together for the mural.
“I liked the fact that we got to know each other better, everyone that participated in it,” Ellis said. “I liked that we got to see each other’s more artistic side. I enjoy painting so I enjoyed that part the most.”
Before they could start painting, the students had to put their ideas down on the canvas that had been framed by DeCavalcante. They sketched out their ideas, then projected those sketched ideas onto the canvas, and then began the painting.
“About the second or third session, I was like, ‘Whoa, we’ve got a lot of work to do,’” Ellis said.
As they put the finishing touches on it months later, Ellis could reflect back positively on all that work that did get done: “It looks pretty good. It looks like an actual mural.”
The project gave the students an opportunity to see their efforts pay off with a beautiful work of art that came that’s a product of their combined skills.
“It’s opened a new window,” Adeaca said. “I get to see other people’s art and how to make mine better. I get that good criticism on my artwork and different opinions to make myself better and give mine to them to make theirs better.
It was a project that brought all facets of the entire community together on canvas to celebrate Ewing. It ended up being even a bigger project than they could have imagined.
“It was weird to think about my first year in high school and I was already working on a big thing,” said Rodas, who moved to Ewing in 2010. “I felt really happy making something for the people of Ewing and knowing it’s a collective art piece of all our art combined that will be hanging for this town. I was really happy about it.”
The mural allows future generations to see Ewing in a nutshell thanks to the efforts of the students, their advisors and members of the community.
“I’ll be appreciating this,” Adeaca said. “You get to contribute to something you don’t get to see every day. It comes once in a lifetime. You just have to take your chance.”