EASTPORT, Maine — Area artists stepped forward several years ago to create an art program for students after the local school system cut it because of budget considerations.
Funded through money donated by some of the earliest artists to “discover” Eastport, the program continues to provide lessons to schoolchildren in drawing, painting, sculpture and other arts, all taught by local artists.
The artists receive a small stipend, it is true, but in no way does it cover the many hours they dedicate to the children.
One of this semester’s projects at Shead High School is a mural, created and taught by Richard Klyver, an internationally known bronze sculptor. The mural is under construction at the Eastport Arts Center.
Klyver said it broke his heart to learn that area students had no art instruction.
“Everyone can benefit from art,” Klyver said Monday, as three student painters worked on the mural. “I’m not one for compartmentalizing art. It should permeate everything. We should not look at art as isolated.”
Take the mural, for example, he said. The concept drawing Klyver made was on a sheet of 8-by-12-inch graph paper. The students had to use the math that would transfer that gridded concept onto a 5-by-12-foot canvas.
The subject matter of the mural is the undersea life in Passamaquoddy and Cobscook bays, bodies of water that nearly all of the students can see from their bedroom windows.
“That’s the biology part,” Klyver said. “The variety and colors of the fish and other sea life are amazing here.”
Shelby Greene, director of the Eastport Arts Center, agreed. “Our basic language is created from art,” she said. “We need to nurture an appreciation and love of art in our young people.”
Keeping the students motivated is no problem, said Klyver. Children always have loved art, and the three students creating the mural — Cecil Cates, 17, and Rosa Bragdon, 16, both of Eastport, and Deserae Apt, 15, of Perry — are quiet and focused while working on the mural.
“They are not too talkative,” Klyver said. “They get right to the work.”
For Cates, this mural is important. It will become part of his portfolio as he applies to art colleges to continue his education.
“I never painted a mural before,” he said Monday. “I definitely like the color scheme. It’s a bit different than just blue water and green plants.”
For Bragdon, it is a chance to learn something completely new.
“I’ve never painted anything before,” she said. “It’s a lot more difficult than it looks.” Bragdon said she is learning how different types of paint work and how different brushes enable various techniques.
The colorful mural is mostly realistic, but Klyver said he is letting a little fantasy creep in. “I wanted it to only be real enough so that when people come in and see it, they can identify the varieties of fish.”
“We are used to seeing these sea creatures through a filter,” Greene added. “This is very, very vivid.”
Eastport artists who have worked with students in past classes include Greene, Joyce Webber and Sherry Walton.
The funding provided will enable the classes to continue for the next three years. Not every student will take art, Greene explained. “They get to sign up and they get credit for the class. It is a pass-fail class.”
The mural should be completed by the end of the Shead trimester next Wednesday and will remain on display at the Eastport Arts Center.
“It is nice for us because it introduces a population to the Arts Center that might not come here for other events,” Greene said. “This space is used as gallery space and the mural will become a part of the next showing of local work.”
A reception for Klyver and the student artists will be planned for January.