Lakewood Ranch's Nolan Middle turns portable classrooms into outdoor art gallery

jajones1@bradenton.comDecember 5, 2012 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Some of Manatee County's pristine outdoor places have been painted onto 25-by-8-foot murals at Nolan Middle School.

The canvas: the sides of portable classrooms.

The artists? Members of the Fine Arts Club for Talented Students. The group of eighth- and seventh-graders recently completed a mural representing a beach at Emerson Point, working two days a week after school for six weeks.

It was the second mural the class has painted. Last year, the class painted a wetland scene at Lakewood Ranch.

Next year, Nolan art teacher Wade Smith plans a third mural, most likely of a pine forest, helping to turn the Nolan campus into an outdoor art gallery.

"We all got to do a little of everything," said eighth-grader Rowan Murry. "I did mostly the water."

Students started with a small painting by Smith, replicating it on the uneven wall of a portable classroom.

There were challenges working on such a large and tall canvas, and with blending the art over the slats of the building.

"We also had a perspective issue," Rowan said. "The shoreline didn't look quite right. We had to start over."

Part of the artistic process was taking advantage of happy accidents, including mixing a color that wasn't originally planned to set the sky off from the water, said student Tiffany Rojas.

"It came out better," she said.

Students may have had some doubts about the final outcome.

"It opened our eyes. We didn't think that it would look that good," said Isabella Ortiz.

The school's principal, Nancy High, was more than happy with the results.

"The art work that was created by Nolan students is most extraordinary," High said.

Smith is working on plans for a mural in the school cafeteria, showing the progression of crops from the fields to the market. It's an apt subject for the school that has cattle and goats grazing outside the principal's office, and which is known for its agriculture program.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet@jajones1

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