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San Miguel High seniors leave mark, a piece at a time

Citizen Staff Writer



San Miguel High School’s 24 seniors want to leave their mark and start a tradition for classes to come.

The seniors are working on a mosaic to represent Native American cultures and hoping future classes will add to it.

Last year, Native American students said they wanted input on the design of the school’s prayer garden.

San Miguel’s president, Elizabeth Goettl, formed a committee of Native American students to discuss their ideas.

By mid-March, local artist Allan Mardon was approached to paint a mural on the prayer garden wall.

Mardon, who came here from Canada, is known for his painting “The Battle of Greasy Grass,” which depicts Custer’s last stand and hangs in the Whitney Gallery of Western Art in Cody, Wyo.

Mardon said he could not complete the mural on time for San Miguel, 6601 S. San Fernando Road, and a mosaic project was suggested to involve students.

Most of the tile was donated and the school purchased the tools to cut it.

Mardon arranged the layout, design and color sketch of the mosaic, but students provided the research and manpower.

Students learned how to cut and lay the tile. They worked in groups on different pieces of the mosaic during art classes. Mardon and art teacher Melissa Schwindenhammer oversaw them.

They also researched important symbols of Native American cultures, including a Pascua Yaqui crescent, a Hopi cloud and an Apache star.

The Tohono O’odham, Taos Pueblo and Ojibwe are also represented.

About 10 percent of students at San Miguel are Native Americans.

Mardon said it was important that the mosaic represent the students and that he “wanted it to be them, mistakes and all.”

A stone statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, an important religious symbol in Mexican culture, already stood in the garden to represent students of Mexican descent.

The students also found a way to incorporate their school colors and a symbol – a phoenix – to represent the senior class.

The project has brought the class together, students said, but they had to learn a new art form.

“Usually you’re used to just drawing and stuff like that. It takes you out of your comfort zone,” said Jose Herrera, 18.

Mardon said, “I had a time where I had to get these kids to understand they weren’t tiling a bathroom.”

Mardon is receiving a small compensation, but mostly giving his time and energy, Schwindenhammer said.

Mardon said he is enjoying his time with the students, finding them to be “very receptive, very diligent, very industrious and an absolute treasure.”

Although Danny Figueroa, 18 has no Native American ancestry, he said it was important to work hard on the mosaic out of respect for the cultures of others. “Then when we’re done, it’s going to make us really proud of each other because we worked so hard.”

Lauren Jensen, 17, said, “It brought us closer to Native Americans that are here and we understand more about their culture and their traditions.”

The mosaic will be unveiled March 19, during the first “Evening of the Arts” at San Miguel.

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