West Side News

GCHS Mural Project

Student art remembers Joplin disaster

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Grove City Art Club members are creating a mural at the Educational Resource Center as fundraiser for victims of the tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., in May 2011.

The area in and around Grove City High School's Educational Resource Center is being enhanced with projects created by the school's art club.

The club's mural on the north wall outside the ERC is not simply art for art's sake.

The mural is designed as a tribute to the community of Joplin, Mo., which suffered massive destruction from a tornado in May 2011.

With the cooperation of the GCHS Renaissance Club, the mural will also help raise funds to assist Joplin. The Renaissance will be selling students and community members the chance to paint a portion of the mural, with proceeds to be contributed toward the effort to rebuild Joplin.

"The purpose of the mural is to have empathy and compassion for the world at large," said art instructor and art club advisor Suzanne Moore. "We are reaching out to Joplin as a sister city."

The connection with Joplin was made through English teacher Lynne Brungarth, who has a cousin and niece who live in Joplin.

"The tornado wiped out half the town. It destroyed the high school and two or three elementary schools," Brungarth said.

When Brungarth told some of her students about the destruction reported to her by her family members, they wanted to know what GCHS could do to help.

Art Club members spent months brainstorming ideas that could be incorporated into the final mural design, Moore said.

"Everything that is depicted in the mural is there for a reason" and has some connection to Joplin and the tornado, she said.

For example, some may be surprised to see an elephant included in the mural, but that represents the elephants from a circus who were used to help move the rubble left by the tornado, Moore said.

"My cousin told me that in the days after the tornado, they had a bunch of butterflies that suddenly were all around Joplin," Brungarth said.

Since then, butterflies have become a symbol of the metamorphosis of post-tornado Joplin, and so butterflies were included in the mural design.

In the center of the mural is a tree. Its left side dead and its right side healthy and alive, Moore said.

"Everything to the left of the tree represents the destruction left by the tornado," she said. "To the right of the tree, everything is rebuilt and renewed and it's representative of the renewal that's going on in Joplin."

"My mother was just recently visiting Joplin and she said many of the houses have been rebuilt, but there's no trees," Brungarth said. "She said it's almost eerie."

The art club is just about finished painting the mural's drawn lines and determining what colors should be used to fill them in, Moore said.

In the ERC itself, club members are working on a "yarn bombing" project, she said.

Students are covering the ERC's mezzanine with colorful knitted or crocheted yarn, Moore said.

"It's like a soft graffiti, not destructive," she said.