For the Stevenson Fine Arts Department, the murals project in the rotundas -- the grand finale to last week’s Odyssey Fine Arts Week -- was understandably a journey.
It took months to plan the project, to secure the artists and then to facilitate the execution of the actual painting process.
But what might be slightly unexpected in this story is the role that the mural project played in the personal journey of muralist Chuck Berrett. He and partner Nicole Salgar, who are based in Miami and own NS/CB Studios, were contracted to paint the murals and Berrett says that every time he works in a school setting, he gets particularly inspired.
He remembers being a teenager himself, and being unsure, as many teenagers are, of where his path would lead. Especially with art. Heck, he was unsure about that less than 10 years ago.
In 2013, Berrett and Salgar started their art studio. Before that, Berrett was just dabbling in art.
“I had like three paintings in my house that I had done and when Nicole first saw them she told me that I should show them. I thought she was crazy,” Berrett (pictured above center with Salgar) said last Friday at the unveiling of the murals. “But she kept encouraging me. She also had this really big passion to open a gallery and studio, and a couple years later, we went into business together.
“I owe a lot to her. I don’t think I would have sought this out. I probably would have always painted, just not on a professional level.”
When Berrett works in a school setting, he loves telling young artists his "don't-underestimate-yourself" story.
"We are always drawn to working within education, working with kids. We also do a lot of work with underprivileged youth in the cities,” Berrett said. “It’s so rewarding to let people see that this is something you can do and you don’t have to be an art school kid and know all these things about art history. You can just work at it and you can do your thing.
“That’s the lesson that I’ve learned is that underestimating my ability to be a professional artist held me back in a lot of ways…and for no reason. I think a lot of people find themselves in that situation and it’s good to know that if you want to do something in life, just do it.”
Berrett and Salgar, who was forced to leave the mural project a bit early due to a situation at home, attacked the mural project with the same determination, in spite of the challenges.
For starters, the ceilings in the rotunda were the biggest they had ever painted. On top of that, each design was tricky in different ways.
The muralists, who finished both murals in about two weeks and would come in each day after school and stay sometimes until 2 a.m., took a “divide-and-conquer” approach. Salgar did most of the first-floor mural and Berrett finished it when she had to leave. Meanwhile, Berrett did most of the second-floor mural.
“The second-floor mural was very challenging because it’s all symmetrical and everything needed to really match up, the shapes, the languages, and getting everything consistent was really difficult but it worked out nicely,” Berrett said. “And the one downstairs had its own challenges because it’s kind of indefinite. There wasn’t a specific stopping point on it so that was up to interpretation.”
Now that it is completed, the only way the Fine Arts Department is interpreting the mural project is as a huge success.
“These pieces represent the interconnectedness of Fine Arts and other content areas like World Languages and Science,” Fine Arts Department Director Jon Grice said at the unveiling, giving a nod to a science project that created the design for the first-floor mural as and the foreign languages and science departments that helped translate Stevenson’s Mission Statement of “Success For Every Student” into the 60-plus languages spoken on campus that are represented on the second-floor mural.
“I’m thrilled that we are able to continue our collection of beautiful public artwork," Grice added.