Art teacher at Maple Valley High School, Jessica Droscha, takes great pride in the work of her students. Seeing students learn and internalize content, then take a paintbrush and create on their own is the reason she’s an art teacher.
The opportunity to take students outside the school to work on a community project creates a special kind of pride. Knowing that an entire community, instead of just her, will appreciate their work is one of the greatest accomplishments Droscha can ask for as a teacher.
Just a week after she was hired as art teacher at Maple Valley, Jack and Judy, owners of the Country Kettle Café, contacted Droscha. They had a vision for the empty wall on the side of their building; a tall, long mural that would breathe some life to Nashville’s downtown. They wanted it to be all Nashville, however. Specific to Nashville, made by Nashville students, and for residents of Nashville.
Pulling from inspiration from a previous art project, Droscha knew exactly the design she and her students could use. Large letters spelling Nashville, each filled with different community characteristics and favorites. Represented in the letters are things like Route 66, The Revue, MOO-ville ice cream, and more. Droscha quickly began work on the design, allowing students to finish a few of the letters themselves.
Once the design was set, Droscha had to analyze how the mural would fit on the wall. Jack and Judy originally wanted the entire 14-foot wall covered. Painting something that high would have required students to use scaffolding, which would have created safety and legal issues for Droscha and the school. Droscha shrunk the mural’s height to 6 feet, but its length is about 70 feet.
Droscha and her students created a grid layout of the mural, originally divided into square inches, and then converted to square feet for the full size. Students from Droscha’s Art 2 and Honors Art classes then took square foot sheets of paper, photo copied and enlarged from the original drawing, and began tracing each square of the mural onto the wall of the Country Kettle Café. After one day of work, the mural already had its shape. Droscha oversaw the whole process, making corrections here and there, but her students did the majority of the work themselves.
Painting on the mural has commenced, but there is still significant work to be done. Droscha hopes the mural will be finished before the school year is out, and has a few more dates set for students to take field trips over to continue painting.
“The students have been amazing at how fast and diligently they’ve worked on it,” said Droscha.
Community art holds a lot of value, according to Droscha. The greatest cities always have big art that attracts visitors, and provides locals with a sense of ownership. Some of the greatest people in history, in whatever field or vocation, have had a connection to art and creative thinking. Making room for community art provides a place for its creative thinkers and artists of many kinds. Droscha is thankful for the rich art community in Nashville and wants to see it continue to blossom and grow and have a purpose.
Droscha is likewise thankful for the many people who have contributed to the mural project. She appreciates Jack and Judy for proposing the idea and funding the project, as well as the many other businesses and organizations that have donated food and funds. Droscha is grateful for the parents and teachers who have been accommodating of students taking time to work on the wall. And for the Art 2, Honors Art, and Art Club students Droscha is proud of their commitment and hard work.
Droscha hopes to have an unveiling of the mural soon, though no date is set. She would also like readers to know that her students are working on submitting an 8-by-16-foot painting to Grand Rapids’ Art Prize festival.