Inspiring future creatives

Camas artist Elida Field collaborates with students to create 30-foot jungle scene at Prune Hill Elementary

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Elida Field (right) and her niece, Elsa Harris, worked 12- to 14-hour days to paint this mural at Prune Hill Elementary School. The 30-foot high piece includes artwork from nearly 500 students. At left, the completed artwork frames the entrance to the gym and cafeteria. Contributed photo by Holly Folk

The first thing one notices upon entering the gym at Prune Hill Elementary School is the larger than life, jungle-themed mural.

Besides the fact that it is more than 30 feet tall, what makes it unique is that nearly every student at the school has their artwork incorporated into the mural.

The process began last spring, when Camas artist Elida Field approached school administrators about working on a collaborative mural with the students.

Each grade level created a different jungle-themed plant or animal, which included beetles, butterflies, leopards, a life-sized chameleon, frogs, toucans, fish and flowers. Teachers recommended including a Lorax, a school favorite, into the design as well.

“I had to look up what a Lorax looked like,” Field joked.

Then, with help from her niece and professional artist Elsa Harris — as well as a couple scissor lifts — Field painted the background for the mural. The students’ artwork was then incorporated into the large piece.

To create the mural, Field and Harris worked 12- to 14-hour days for nearly two weeks, sometimes using a paintbrush extended from a pole when the scissor lifts wouldn’t fit in narrow spaces.

They also made 500 color copies of the students’ artwork, then carefully cut those out and placed them within the painting, using aquavar, a sealant and glue, to adhere the individual creations within the larger mixed media piece.

“I am really glad the students get to see their work incorporated into something big and beautiful,” Field said. “When the kids are invested in this, it helps inspire them to keep going with artwork. Sometimes, they focus on not liking how their piece turned out or wishing it looked different, but when they see how it is incorporated with everyone else’s work, they realize they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.”

Fields’ specialties include mixed media and acrylics. She is nationally recognized and her art has been featured in the White House and on various magazines covers. She teaches art classes and creates at her Camas studio, near downtown, along with instructing in area schools and community education programs.