Monday, October 26, 2020
Big Painting Sends Big Message
Kim Aranda clutches spray paint made from sugar cane as Lella Aicher looks on.
Tuesday, September 8, 2020


A paint-in by 10 high school and college students using paint made from sugar cane stands as a colorful reminder of what Sun Valley-area residents have to lose if they don’t take care of the environment and one another.

The project, by members of the Wood River High School W.A.T.E.R. Club and Hailey Climate Action Coalition, extolls the beauty of the Wood River Valley environment and its inhabitants with the message “It takes all of us para cuidar el mundo (to take care of the earth).”

The project, which the students and their advisors labored over Labor Day Weekend, actually began in April just after shelter-in-place orders began relaxing. Students gathered in a circle in Elizabeth Jeffrey’s backyard in Hailey bouncing ideas around.

Lella Aicher, a sophomore at Wood River High School, designed the mural.

They decided they wanted a mural that addressed diversity, environment, conservation and climate change couched in the outdoorsy community that is Sun Valley.

“As our climate grows warmer, so does our concern for the environment,” they wrote. “At the same time, we have become more aware of the social injustices of past environmental decisions and the need for inclusivity in our natural environment’s accessibility and in our environmental activism.”

Jane Drussel offered the back wall of Jane’s Artifacts in Hailey and added her two cents stressing the need for diversity.

Lella Aicher, a sophomore at Wood River High School, penned a few sketches. Then a few community members pitched in a little money to have Boise muralist Bobby Gaytan help her fine tune her composition so it would flow.

The mural is an eye catcher for those driving in the alleyway between Hailey’s Main Street and Atkinsons Market.

“We made some little changes, moved things around. It’s been fun working with a group. I’ve been wanting to do that,” said Gaytan, who painted a mural for the Community Library last year.

Then as Tyler Peterson set his playlist to Spanish pop music perfect for dancing or house cleaning, the students began painting a fisherman and other images against the backdrop of Bald Mountain and the Big Wood River.

Black skiers representing the National Brotherhood of Skiers who periodically ski Sun Valley stand in the upper left corner with a pony-tailed cyclist racing down a trail. A Hispanic man and his two children plant a tree, while a female backpacker with a child in tow occupies the bottom right corner.

A tiger swallowtail butterfly hangs in the sky representing the importance of pollinators, while a bull elk represents the wildlife population. Syringa, Idaho’s state flower, represents the bounty of wildflowers in the area. A tree represents the importance of vegetation and offered hope for the earth as it pulls carbon out of the air. And, of course, there’s a large trout jumping in the river.

Tyler Petersen decided a lift would be better than scaffolding because it would allow students to work underneath while others were on the platform above.

“We talked a long time about gender balance and racial balance,” said Jeffrey. Originally, for instance, the biker was male. We made it female because here in the valley women do it all. The women and child is ambiguous enough that you can make them white, indigenous, Hispanic—whatever you want them to be.”

A number of spectators stopped by to watch the students as they painted. Among them, 4-year-old Griffin Bearce, who watched the proceedings with his mother Hollie.

“Painting big is fun,” Jeffrey told him. “Just don’t do this at home.”

Aicher said it was amazing to see her sketch come take form in such big fashion.

Hollie and 4-year-old Griffin Bearce compare the drawing of the mural to the mural being painted in front of them.

“This is really a treat. Super cool,” she said.

“It’s really empowering,” added Kim Aranda, a 2020 Wood River High School graduate who is headed to Middlebury College to study studio art.

In keeping with their care for the environment, the students used repurposed paint left over from the owl mural on the other side of the wall from theirs.

Gaytan projected Aicher’s sketch on the stucco wall outlining the figures with black paint. The kids used rollers for parts of the project, taking care to keep the paint within the lines.

They also used a Sugar Artists’ Acrylic Spray Paint, which contains no petroleum that would contribute to ozone. The paint is made, instead, from sugar cane and boasts vibrant UV-resistant pigments for long-lasting color.

Tyler Petersen, who has spent the summer working for Rob Beck Tree Service cutting branches off trees before they’re felled, volunteered an all-electric crane to offer a lift to students working on the top of the painting.

“I think it’s amazing seeing this come together,” said Petersen. “It’s going to take everybody to keep our community so that climate change doesn’t do away with the things we love to do.”

Petersen said he is particularly concerned that so many people like to throw away things. And, he said, he’s worried that new home building for those moving into the valley is eliminating trees that could sequester carbon, in addition to destroying wildlife habitat.

“We need to find better alternatives to buying plastic. We need to use bikes during summer and public transportation in winter. I want to see the community stay happy, healthy forever,” he said.

Since the paint has dried, numerous people have walked by or bicycled by to view the mural and take pictures.

The mural is an example of intersectional environmentalism, coined this year by environmentalist Leah Thomas to consider both people and the planet in the same breath, said Jeffrey. It also looks at who is most impacted by the results of climate change—typically low-income and black and brown communities.

“It’s pretty gorgeous, I think,” said Jeffrey. “And I’m hoping that the work the students did is only the beginning of this mural sparking conversations in our community about both environment and inclusion.  The students are already talking about ways they can carry the mural and message to younger students this year.”

MURAL ARTISTS include these students of Wood River High School’s W.A.T.E.R. Club: Lella Aicher, Tyler Petersen, Lilia Page, Olivia Camilli, Hazel Ludwig, Adri Meyer, Ava Angell and Ruben Toledo. Past W.A.T.E.R. Club members now in college: Sofia Peller and Kim Aranda.

Adult mentors were Erika Greenberg, Elizabeth Jeffrey, Herbert Romero and Boise artist Bobby Gaytan.


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