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Starry day and night for Hinsdale Central art students

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Don’t tell the painters’ union, but some artists at Hinsdale Central High School are painting 12 hours straight.

Students in advanced placement art classes and in the National Art Honor Society are working from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to create a mural that will be installed in the hall in the high school’s world languages department.

The background of the mural will be Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” but the students also are overlaying figures in the painting.

“The figures will be interacting directly with the painting, hanging from a swirl or climbing through a cloud,” said art teacher Laura Milas.

“It’s a very busy hallway, so it will look like you are going into and around the painting,” said Nick Leahy, a senior from Clarendon Hills, who is co-president of the National Art Honor Society club.

The mural will replace one painted by freshman art students about 10 years ago. Those freshmen introduced student-created public art in the school.

“Their legacy is not the actual piece they created, but having student-produced art and adding to the academic environment,” Milas said. “It’s a symbol of how we respect student success in this place.”

The long lasting murals will recognize the art students’ talent, the way trophies and plaques recognize students’ athletic and academic achievements, Milas said.

The mural is being painted on four 8-by-5 feet canvas panels, which will be combined to form a mural 8-by-20 feet. If the mural were painted directly on the wall, it might have to be destroyed if the area was going to be remodeled or there were a structural problem with the wall.

The students came up with the idea of a mural-athon, painting continually for 12 hours, with breaks for meals, until the mural is finished.

“It’s probably the most efficient way to do it,” Milas said.

Previous student murals were painted over two to three weeks with students painting an hour at a time.

They chose the “Starry Night” theme, because “it has such loose lines and strokes,” said Ryan Jay of Clarendon Hills, co-president of the art club. “There’s a lot more freedom with it.”

The students discussed the design in meetings once or twice a week since the beginning of January.

The design “morphed” over time, Milas said. The first version used pointillism, with the students dividing the surface into a grid and painting individual squares. The image would be clear when the viewer stepped back from the painting.

But then they “veered back to a more free flowing (approach), which I supported,” Milas said. “The school is too structured and angled architecturally. The curvilinear style will soften the hallways.”

The students wanted the design to relate to the world languages department where it will be installed.

“We want the mural to represent different kinds of people from all different places, that are connected in some way, like languages connect people,” said Sarah McCarthy, 18, of Hinsdale.

So the silhouettes on the “Starry Night” backdrop will be painted in different artistic styles, such as pop, cubism, pointillism and classical, suggesting different places and periods of time, McCarthy and Jay said.

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