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Students paint murals for homeless, food pantry volunteers (Video)

By Carolina Astrain
March 24, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 24, 2013 at 10:25 p.m.

Victoria East High School's Taylor Hughes, 18, stands in front of a mural she painted as part of an art in the community project at the Victoria Christian Assistance Ministry building. The works were part of the students' Texas Performance Standards Project.

An orange, a green apple and an array of other fruits and vegetables beamed brightly from the blue walls of the Victoria Christian Assistance Ministry.

On the other side of the front lobby, a scene taken from a page out of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" showed farmers harvesting a field against a panorama of purple mountains.

The freshly painted murals were part of a Texas Performance Standards Project directed by Victoria East High School art teacher Candace Coyle.

The art teacher approached the Victoria alliance's food pantry earlier this year and put together a team of 22 students to paint murals for the homeless and volunteers using the facilities.

"This place deals with people in crisis and provides services including the food pantry and whatever else people's basic needs are," Coyle said. "First, we started off with one mural, but the kids finished the first one so quickly, so we moved on the the next wall and later into a hallway."

Individual, window-like paintings lined a back hallway of the area food pantry with picturesque scenes of the ocean and forests.

The students completed the series of hallway paintings and two large murals over the course of four weeks, said Coyle.

"What we were trying to do was explain to them that using their gifts for the community can be fun," Coyle said. "We did a quick study on Diego Rivera before we got started."

World-renowned artist Rivera was known for his mural work across Mexico and the United States depicting themes of revolution and class inequity.

Victoria East junior Jourdyn Montgomery, 17, said he had no idea what the modest, mirror-paned downtown building was before starting the project.

"This was my first time painting a mural," Montgomery said, standing next to a meticulously shaded, painted apple. "It felt pretty good doing something that actually matters to the community."

Susan Whitefield became the Victoria Christian Assistance Ministry's executive director about nine months ago.

Previously, Whitefield has worked as a nursing home administrator and an AIDS case worker, traveling throughout the northwest and Montana before settling in Victoria.

"Victoria is one of the most giving, gracious communities I've ever lived in," Whitefield said. "It's so nice to see kids wanting to help out their community."

Shelves of diapers, female sanitary items and basic toiletries filled the inside of the food pantry.

From a red plastic chair, Victoria East parent Christie Carroll admired the high school art project. "It's so neat to have a bright place for the people who come and volunteer here," she said.

Her daughter, Olivia Carroll, 14, ran her fingers down a narrowing row of carrots planted in one of the mural's field scenes.

"This symbolizes good, hardworking people," the Victoria East freshman said. "It shows that if you work hard, you'll get something back in return."



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