For the last four years Audrey Haddock’s art classes have made murals for the village of Bellevue. The murals aren’t huge, but they’re presented on a roadside billboard off Main Street and Sherwood. The murals have taken several images and designs in the last few years, created by various students of each high school grade. This year, as the school year comes to a close, passersby will see a new mural displaying an underwater view of clown fish swimming in a reef.

According to Haddock, the main work of the mural is not about what is on the billboard, but how the finished product looks. Her students have traditionally made nature scenes, and this year they wanted something that would stand out not only from its surroundings, but also from their previous works. Bright orange and pink against a deep blue backdrop surrounded by the green setting of spring is what passersby will see. The image is bold, beautifully out of place, and a welcome change of pace while driving through the village.

The idea is less than half the work, however. The real work comes in laying out the design, sketching and outlining, then blowing up the image and filling in the lines with color and hue. That’s where Haddock’s students do the bulk of the work, often with minimal supervision from her. Design is projected in sections onto panels, and then is placed piece by piece onto the billboard. Precision is necessary, and Haddock’s students don’t disappoint.

This year Alexis Blevins and Alyssa Phillips led the way on the project, with the helping hands and participation of Cylee Hughes, Rachel Hall, and Josh Stephens. The project took about four months, according to Haddock, and the finished product was worth the time. Haddock sees art, especially that which is made and displayed by students, as essential for a community.

“It’s important on many levels. People need to have art integrated in their lives. The students take total ownership of that. It gives them a boost, and it beautifies the area,” said Haddock.

The question is often asked: how can we get the youth more involved and invested in the community? Haddock found the solution when she gratefully accepted an opportunity four years ago to display a student art project in the community. In the current climate of Bellevue, one in which the state of the downtown is unclear, but the student population is healthy and talented, youth buy in is essential.

“There’s a lot of promising kids here,” said Haddock.