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Photo Gallery: 50-year-old Bluff City mural gets face lift thanks to Sullivan East students

May 10th, 2014 10:00 am by Nick Shepherd

Photo Gallery: 50-year-old Bluff City mural gets face lift thanks to Sullivan East students

This photo shows two Sullivan East students working on the mural. Contributed photo

A 50-year-old mural in Bluff City recently underwent a face lift with the help of some local high school students, and members of the board of Mayor and Alderman gathered on Friday to show their appreciation.

The mural, which depicts a train coming out of a tunnel, is painted on a 25 foot high train trestle that used to be a part of a railroad bridge which crossed over the Holston River. The original mural was painted back in the 1970s.

Time and weather has created the need for multiple versions of the mural. This is the third version. After the second version began to fade away, Mayor Irene Wells turned to the students at Sullivan East High School.

"The East High group, they came and I asked if they would do it for us and they acted really excited to do it," Wells said. "They really worked hard on it."

Two art teachers from East High school, Marcia Ross and Debra Brooks, and eight art students, Hannah Tester, Megan Rowlette, Megan Booker, Alisha Burnheimer, Bryanna Shelby, Haley Carver, Ben Burgess and Grace Baker, worked for three months to give the mural its face lift.

Work began in October and was finished by mid-December. Many of the students would leave school and work on the mural then come back on the weekends to do some more work.

Ross and Brooks used the painting as a teaching opportunity. They taught students about perspective and team work. Painting on a 25-foot tall rock presented a challenge.

"Because the rock is so large, you can't look at the painting up close," Baker, an 11th grader, said. "You have to walk across the street to look at it."

Because it was large, everybody had to depend on other people for guidance on where paint was needed or a place that could use a little more color.

Baker worked on the bottom part of the painting and some of the perspective.

The group had to bring in a lift in order to reach some of the higher spots. Burgess, also an 11th grader, was the one tasked with getting on the lift and painting up high.

"I did a lot of the top part, like the sky and the trees," he said. "Because I'm tall."

A sense of accomplishment was felt by both the students and teachers once the project was complete.

The BMA gave the teachers and students a certificate of appreciation on Friday for all their hard work. It was presented to them at City Hall.

For the students, it is something they will be able to pass along to their children one day.

"It was a great opportunity," Baker said. 

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