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Next generation muralists

Sarah Bruhns and Harley Munger look at a binder filled with photos of past and present mural projects Tuesday afternoon. (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).
Sarah Bruhns and Harley Munger look at a binder filled with photos of past and present mural projects Tuesday afternoon. (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).

By Adam Madison

Triplicate staff writer

A team of Del Norte youth, with the help of local resident Harley Munger, have made $250,000 in tile-murals in Del Norte County in seven years, according to Munger, who is also the director of the mural program.

"It involves...the community," Munger said, "it involves younger kids."

The current project is located at Smith River Elementary, where students have finished 20, 3x4-foot murals, out of 100 that are scheduled to be completed.

The project was named the "Legacy Project," because some students attend the elementary school from kindergarten through eighth grade.

"The Legacy Project was created so kids could leave their mark on the school," said Jean Graves, a teacher at Smith River Elementary.

"Some kids are here for nine years, so they wanted to leave

a piece of themselves behind," Graves said about the school's involvement in the project.

Munger chose Sarah Bruhns and Rose Hensel to head the project because of their involvement in the mural program since its inception.

"It's probably going to take until next year to finish," Bruhns said, refering to all 100 murals. Bruhns has been working with Munger since she was a student Crescent Elk Middle School in 2001.

Hensel has been part of the program since it's creation in 2000. Hensel and Bruhns designed the $56,000 mural at Del Norte High School. They also orchestrated the students' help with the high school project.

Bruhns, now a sophomore at San Fransisco State University, received a scholarship for her work on the high school mural.

During the school year, the younger grades also helped out with the Legacy Project, according to Munger.

Fourteen-year-old Lupita Montez said she had been working on the project, "mostly since the beginning of the year."

Montez began working on the art-work for her mural at the end of her seventh grade year. The 4-foot square tile mosaic centered around Smith River Elementary sports is completed now that Montez has graduated from Smith River Elementary.

Montez will attend Del Norte High School as a freshman for the 2007-2008 school year.

She said, "I'll come back to finish it (the mural project)."

Each of the 100 tile murals at Smith River Elementary go through a long, complicated process before the tiles are attached to the wall.

First, a drawing created by one of the students is enlarged using a projector to the size it will be before it's placed at its location.

The blown-up design is then placed on a 4-foot square piece of glass, with a light beneath it to be traced.

After the artwork is traced, Munger is in charge of breaking up the artwork into tiles, while still keeping the original image of the artwork.

The tiles also shrink after they are placed in the kiln, so the artwork for each mosaic needs to be adjusted for the shrinkage.

"Some of the tiles are made from raw clay—each tile has to be glazed and thrown in the kiln," Munger said.

The bisque tiles are made in his pottery shop, located in the old juvenile hall on Williams Road.

The larger tile-mosaics include many more tiles than the smaller pieces, so breaking up the original artwork into separate tiles takes more time.

Work on the Legacy Project is on hold for summer.

Munger said the project will resume "when school starts again."

Reach Adam Madison at

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