They were hot, tired and still a little sweaty from the field trip that had taken them from Our Lady of Grace School in Reserve, across the adjacent River Road and over the Mississippi River levee.
But the half-dozen or so young girls from the River Parishes area were eager to capture in art what they had learned about the mighty river that runs through their midst.
For several days, the youngsters, who are part of the Betty Shabazz Delta Academy under the mentorship of the River Parishes Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, had been working on a multipaneled mobile mural depicting life in St. John the Baptist Parish and, in particular, the waterways that surround it. Through a grant from the New Orleans Arts Council, the group was able to study the many waterways in the area, including lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas and the Mississippi River, and create the mural with the commission of local artist Jamar Pierre.
The mural, hand-painted by the young girls and Pierre on three panels, will be unveiled at a special ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 20, in the Our Lady of Grace gym, 780 La. 44, in Reserve. The public is invited. The mural will be displayed at other sites in the parish still to be determined.
Sandra Horne, who helped write the grant, said the project was a good learning tool for the young girls.
“It was important to teach them about the waterways surrounding our area and what they mean to the area,” Horne said. “We wanted to teach them how important those are.”
The River Parishes area, known for its rich history and agriculture, is depicted in the mural like a multilayered sandwich between the lakes and the Gulf, illustrated with sugar cane stalks, historic architecture and a giant catfish painted by Ordaijah Henyard, 14, of LaPlace.
“I tried to not get some specific parts so I wouldn’t mess up too much,” Henyard said. “I paint, but sometimes I don’t paint a lot, so this was a good opportunity for me. If I have a bunch of time on my hands, I’ll draw people.”
Pierre said he has been commissioned several times to do such projects.
“I don’t do it for the money,” he said. “I do it because I love working with the kids. They got a chance to learn how to paint, how to use contrast and composition, the basic elements of painting and drawing. I want them to have a bigger appreciation for art. They see how much hard work goes into it and, also, it lets them know that you can become a professional artist and do something you love.”
Milah Joseph, 12, of LaPlace, said she learned a lot about the local waterways during the week. She was especially interested in how the northern snows affect the southern portion of the Mississippi River.
“We’re trying to show what is really about St. John Parish,” Joseph said. “The waterways and where the Mississippi runs.”