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Drivers stopped at the intersection of U.S. Highway 93 and Fairgrounds Road in Hamilton can enjoy the commissioned public art project on the west side of Evans Ace Hardware of iconic murals that portray local history.

Gayle Roege coordinated three artistic teenagers in her private studio, Sensazione Art & Design Innovations, to work with Ace owner David Evans on the project.

“This mural not only helps beautify Hamilton but promotes a sense of unity and belonging among all of those who live here and can identify with and appreciate these historical icons,” Roege said.

The art students learned the steps of a commissioned public art process and intricate design thinking strategies. Some of the artists had participated in painting other local murals of the fair mural on the Horticulture building in 2014 and the floral mural on the Community building in 2017, both at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds.

Initially, Evans presented his idea for a mural to the students and mentioned his love of history and his interest in Czech artist Alfonse Mucha’s art nouveau style. Evans suggested that the mural depict the four seasons and some local historical icons.

The art students researched local history, the style of artist Mucha and which types of paint would withstand the outdoor elements. They drew the designs for four panels that would be installed on the exterior expresso-colored wall at Evans Ace Hardware.

Maria Goman created Tammany Castle and Daly’s thoroughbred horse on the spring panel; Rachel Cassens painted the Daly Mansion and horse driven coach in the fall; Naomi Goman painted Skalkaho Falls and The Legend of Sleeping Child as a winter panel and Roege created the summer panel representing the Grantsdale Bell and the sugar beet tower.

Naomi Goman said the project was a “cycle of nonstop planning.”

“No one in the art class seemed to know how to muster down their extravagant ideas into one panel,” she said. “The reason is we originally planned for the mural to be one, big panoramic painting that shows the seasons changing as different historic events throughout Montana.”

Cassens said initially she felt overwhelmed and intimidated by the size and scope of the art project.

“I knew that the mural would be seen by everyone in the valley for many years to come and the project just seemed impossible,” she said. “As we worked on it, I began to realize that we could turn this into something really amazing.”

Maria Goman said she was excited to participate.

“I wanted to personally grow as an artist by embarking and exceeding different kinds of challenges,” she said. “Taking risks in life also contributes to your self-journey and discovery.”

Once the final drawings were completed, the artists used a digital app to electronically add color to the drawings. They cross-matched paint colors to give uniformity across the four panels. They projected the drawings onto the oil-primed panels then traced the designs. Next, the panels were hand-painted on custom-made easels outside under a deck. The panels were sheltered from direct sun but the weather continued to have a big impact on the work.

“Dry, hot days caused paint to dry on the brushes, requiring an extender medium to be used to lengthen drying time,” Roege said. “A week of chilly temperatures meant that the paint did not dry quick enough to allow for dry-brushing details that same day. Heavy thunderstorms prompted covering everything with tarps and cleaning the splashed-on dirt off the panels before the next painting session began.”

Cassens described the amount of time, energy and passion that three teenage girls and an art teacher put into the mural as “insane.”

“I'm beyond proud of how hard we worked,” she said. “I'm really looking forward to creating more murals in the future.”

Naomi Goman said teamwork was a necessary part of the production process.

“This just showed me that everyone has an important role in a group, and that it isn’t a shame to ask another for help,” she said. “We all need that extra helping hand in a project and there’s nothing wrong with relying on each other.”

Maria Goman said she learned that anyone can achieve something really great.

“Through this process, I discovered that greatness is accomplished through patience, learning from mistakes, perseverance and determination,” she said. “Overall, I feel blessed to have been through this experience. It made the art group grow closer together and equipped with new life skills.”

Roege said she is “extremely proud” of the teen artists, their commitment to the project and how much they learned.

“They learned an immense amount about local history,” she said. “They learned about themselves, how to approach a project of this size using the design thinking strategies and the entrepreneurial skills associated with being commissioned artists. Most importantly, they learned that the community really does value the talent that they possess and as an artist they have the potential to make a difference.”

Andi Evans said the art work is beautiful.

“We are excited about it,” she said. “We commissioned the work and the artists created the idea and the symbolism of the four seasons and tying into Bitterroot icons. It is just amazing.”

Roege thanks David and Andi Evans for commission the mural and giving back to the community.

“My passion is working with talented teenagers, providing opportunities for them to develop their potential in ways that bring benefits to them and their communities,” Roege said. “It is my hope that more of these kinds of public art projects will be commissioned here in Hamilton.”