May 20, 2014

Mural at Atwater’s Buhach Colony High School has been in the works for a year and a half

The student-painted panels represent San Joaquin Valley scenes as well as San Francisco and Yosemite.

Positioned between the amphitheater and the office, the new mural at Buhach Colony High School depicts the school, the Central Valley and California landmarks. It also represents sustained cooperation and hundreds of hours of involvement from 20 students spanning several years.

The mural, which takes up 90 square feet in 10 three-foot panels, shows Central Valley crops, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline as well as Yosemite National Park.

Shirley Schmidt Murphy, the Buhach Colony art teacher who supervised the project, called it a very long, grueling ordeal. Some wondered if it would ever get done.

Seth Stone, a senior, was described as the heart and soul of the project. He painted balloons, the sky and an aquarium; Murphy said he was the greatest cheerleader of the project.

“I began working on the mural at the beginning of my junior year,” Stone said. “I wanted to help be part of something that was going to be represented at our school. During the beginning of working on the mural, there were a lot of conflicting thoughts on what should be displayed, that being the most difficult part during the whole process.”

Stone said the students finally agreed on a sketch that fellow student Alex Avila drew and began painting. The painting wasn’t hard, but keeping a consistent painting schedule was difficult.

“We finally buckled down this year and worked consistently until we finished,” Stone said. “Once it was complete I was relieved and extremely proud that we were able to accomplish something that seemed to be so monumental and getting to know one another in the process.”

Murphy said materials for the mural amounted to about $1,000; students took a trip to San Francisco in spring 2012 to see a colorful mural by famed artist Diego Rivera. The project closed with a trip to Yosemite in April.

The best of paints and varnishes from a Seattle art supply company were used. Three-foot aluminum panels were used for their weather resistance and pliability.

Many students started the project in 2012 but only 10 ended it this year, Murphy said. The students have been commended by the school for their dedication and volunteer spirit, working weekends, holidays and free time between classes.

For Amanda Prewett, a junior, working on the mural was a confidence-builder. As she got involved with the painting of the bridge and water, she discovered she had more artistic talent than she realized.

“I remember first seeing the mural and thinking that the people painting it were so talented,” Prewett said. “I never thought I would be one of those people. When I was asked to help paint it this year, I didn’t think I was capable of painting it and, more importantly, making it look good.”

Sandra Lezama, a senior, said the mural came out great. She did some of the Yosemite trees and grass. She said the mural is a great representation of Buhach Colony High School.

Lezama plans to attend California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock and major in biology. She hopes to transfer to UC Berkeley in two years.

Andrea Ratzlaff, a senior, said she hopes the mural will help the school show the different things this area and California have to offer. She is pleased with the way the mural turned out.

“The feeling of knowing I was part of something like painting a mural is amazing,” Ratzlaff said. “I loved working on it as well as working with the other students. We couldn’t have done it without everyone’s participation.”

Ratzlaff says she hopes to go to Merced College and then UC San Diego, ultimately becoming a chemical engineer. She said painting is a great hobby and she took the sequence of four art classes at the high school.

Stone, the shepherd of the project, said he enjoys seeing it every day. He says he plans to go to Merced College and then a four-year college, majoring in psychology.

“I am really proud we actually finished it,” Stone said. “I love it; it turned out really well.”

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