They saw the musical and then painted the mural.
When Billings West High art students were contemplating what kind of a mural to paint on a YMCA wall, they remembered last year’s West High production of “Seussical the Musical,” based on the books of Dr. Seuss.
The production was colorful and whimsical, just the right theme to brighten up a blank 30-by-8-foot wall at the Y’s Youth Rally Room.
Earlier this fall, the Magic City Optimist Club donated $15,000 to renovate the large basement room in the Mary Alice Fortin Center at the Y.
A West High art teacher, Brenda Rose, who also teaches at the Y, heard that the organization was looking for someone to paint a mural. She mentioned it to fellow teacher Brittney Levang, who got the job done with students in the art club that she advises.
The West High students picked the Seuss theme, in part, because they wanted to pass along their love of Dr. Seuss and his quirky characters to younger children who may be more tuned into SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, said Jessica Ballantyne and Kayla Knight, two senior students who spent a lot of time on the mural.
Knight and Ballantyne, who helped create the “Seussical” sets, incorporated ideas from the play into the mural.
The students sketched out their ideas on paper and transferred those images to the Y’s wall with pencil. They then painted the mural in soft colors of yellow, pink, red, orange, blue, green and purple.
The result is a fanciful landscape with rolling hills, towers, stairs, trees with squiggly trunks and swirling tops. Striped balloons float off to the left. An endearingly goofy Seuss bird flies through the sky.
The Rally Room badly needed updating, which hadn’t been done since the Mary Alice Fortin building was constructed about 30 years ago next to the Y, said Wayne Moller, associate executive director of the Y.
The Optimist money is paying for new flooring, painting and replacing older fluorescent lights with brighter and more energy-efficient lighting.
When the remaining three walls in the room are painted in the near future, they will take a cue in color and perhaps theme from the West High mural, Moller said.
As many as 200 children in the YMCA’s after-school and summer camp programs use the room.
Kids come to the room first thing each day to hang their coats on hooks around the room. From there, they go off to swim, scale the climbing wall or play in the gym. Children also play board and floor games in the room.
Knight and Ballantyne put in four to six hours of work three days a week over a month while juggling school, homework and outside jobs.
Elijah Sundheim, DaiDai Wood, Kyra Alguire and Kayla Shandy also worked on the project.
“Very dedicated,” Levang said of her students.
The students got as much out of the volunteer project as the Y did, Levang said. Not only did the community benefit, but students had to collaborate as a team to prepare and execute the project.
They also had a great time working while as many as 60 kids played around them.
Many kids wanted to help paint the mural, which wasn’t possible because much of the work was done on high ladders.
One little boy asking to help told Knight that “painting is my best sport.”
Ballantyne got help from one eager child who pointed out spots on the mural that needed more paint.