Philomath High’s six summer mural camp participants plus a guest student pose with the mural located just outside Clemens Community Pool. (Photo provided by Andrea Heidinger)

Whether community members are walking in and out of the swimming pool area or students are making their way to a particular part of campus, the views are a whole lot brighter these days thanks to a small group of art students.

Over the summer, Andrea Heidinger’s summer mural camp class attracted a half-dozen participants — juniors Riven Benson, Zandyer Hecker, Ash Jorgens, Peyten Lesire and Leaf Lewis and sophomore Reagan Chisholm. Thanks to their efforts, an area just outside of Clemens Community Pool now features a colorful mural that adds to the atmosphere.

“I hope that it’s something that can encourage everyone and lighten their day when they come to swim and it can be something that they can look at when they’re taking a break from swimming,” Lesire said. “I think it’s a fun way to appreciate the landscapes that we have around Philomath and just Oregon in general … something that can stand out and brighten everyone with the lovely bright colors.”

Benson had a similar perspective on what she hopes the art will do for those who visit campus.

“I hope that people are able to see themselves in this and also have something to look at and enjoy while they’re swimming and just enjoy the colors and appreciate it,” Benson said.

Lesire hopes to see the artwork serve other purposes.

“I hope that it also inspires other artists out there to present and showcase their art wherever they are,” she said. “I also feel that it is a very good representation of the LGBTQ community so they feel welcome and safe here.”

Heidinger, who is often referred to as “Mrs. H” by the students, said the idea grew out of a conversation with former pool director Daniel Mikula.

“The pool manager had gotten in touch with me in the spring and said, ‘hey, we really want to make this space more inviting, this is really ugly, we want to take care of it,’” Heidinger said.

Heidinger told Mikula that it was too late in the academic year really to get something started on it but then the idea of a summer camp came up.

“I announced it to all of my classes and I’m so lucky because all of these students have been in my classes before and they’re all rock stars, so they signed up,” Heidinger said.

An expanded look at the full mural. (Photo provided by Andrea Heidinger)

Benson was the first to sign up and Lesire saw it as a fun summer opportunity.

“I thought it would be a fun way to showcase art and it would also be a really nice experience and good practice,” Lesire said. “And I think it would be a fun way to socialize with other people that are my friends but also classmates that I could work with and see how our styles are alike and different and how they can work together.”

At the start of the class, Heidinger got the students pointed in the right direction but then they took over.

“I kinda facilitated an approach of how to come up with ideas but it was totally authentically the students that designed and came up with what they wanted to say in this mural,” Heidinger said.

Once the students solidified the idea, they proposed the mural design to the principal for approval.

“By golly, they did like a full-scale drawing of how it would look and why they were doing it and everything,” Heidinger said. “And the principal was like, ‘whoa, yeah.’”

Each of the six students put their own artistic stamp on the mural. Lesire, who mostly contributed to the natural settings depicted in the artwork and helped with some of the characters, said she has always been interested in art.

“I’ve never felt that I’ve been super skilled but I’ve always been super interested in it, so when I’m able to help, I love to do that,” she said. “Plus, it’s a job that I would totally be up for one day as an art teacher. So if I’m involved in more (types of) art, then I’ll be able to teach future generations.”

Benson focused only on landscapes and did most of the shading on those features.

“I mainly started getting more interested in art around middle school, fifth grade, and then from then on, it grew into more and more stuff,” said Benson, who mostly paints and draws.

The student artists used latex house paint, the most durable option that can handle the outside elements. The project took less than two weeks to complete, although the mural will be getting a couple more coats to protect it from graffiti.

The students are organizing an art club and are currently recruiting others on the PHS campus to join them.

“Maybe we’ll be able to do other projects like this or just different projects in general and help bring the community in to enjoy some art,” Benson said.

Heidinger said the principal is favorable of other art in outside areas of the school.

“They’re thinking they’re going to make it more actually kind of interactive with the public,” Heidinger said. “But they’re still coming up with it. … They’ve got all kinds of ideas.”

Heidinger said she’ll try to again offer the summer mural camp.

“I’d love to do that so we can bring along the younger classes to get them wanting to stay active,” Heidinger said.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.