Kimball Art Center donates art to school |

Kimball Art Center donates art to school

Matthew Hartman, age 6, touches the new ceramic mural donated by the Kimball Art Center to McPolin Elementary Friday. Sarah Ause/Park Record

Artist Lark Lucas’ ceramic tiles have seemingly over the years. taken on the life, spirit and love of the real-life individuals represented in the masterpiece’s who are now watching over the students of McPolin Elementary School, after the mural’s unveiling on Friday.

Once displayed on a wall of the Kimball Art Center, the now 20-year-old, three-panel mural was carefully taken down in 2002, when the wall was removed for an Olympics display. Stored under protective blankets in the basement of the Art Center ever since, the nomadic mural has now likely found a permanent home, among children, to the delight of artist Lucas. The mural is prominently displayed near the entrance of McPolin Elementary School.

The Kimball Art Center approached McPolin because McPolin teachers have embraced of the arts. Carol Tesch, the outreach coordinator of the masterpieces and art at McPolin, said more than 350 McPolin students visit the Kimball Art Center yearly, on city busses, to make for many easy, inexpensive field trips to expose students to the world of art.

Principal Lori O’Connor accepted the offer of the mural immediately. "I was honored, absolutely honored," she said. "This is such a wonderful reflection of art, children and diversity. Art is the universal language." O’Connor stressed the importance of art. "There has to be a balance. You cannot have everything academic to the exclusion of the arts."

Tesch went before the Park City district school board to sell the idea of allowing the three, 600-pound panels to be hung on the wall, at no cost to the district. The proposal was approved, and the project was under way.

The McPolin Parent Teachers Organization held fundraisers to bring the mural to McPolin.

The middle panel of the 15-foot-long, 7-foot-high mural declares, "Art Is A Bond Between The People Of The World."

Members of the Park City Jazz Ensemble played during the ceremony. And nearly 394 McPolin students filed past the mural.

Lucas has lived an unconventional life, full of struggles, sorrows and triumph. As a female, she felt she lacked a voice, and her art gave her the voice to express herself. She found a medium she loved creating her tile murals.

But life dealt Lucas a series of challenges. Her husband Will Lucas, a Park City radio announcer, died in 1977. She raised their five children alone. One of her daughters, Jodi, died of cancer. "Art became my therapy," Lucas said. "As far as the adage that one has to suffer to become a great artist I don’t believe it," she said.

The mural donated to McPolin, has great significance to Lucas. Jodi, she said, is represented in the center of the mural. Some of Lucas’ students are depicted too. Lucas has great admiration and fondness for people of Mexican descent, and Native Americans, whom she features in the mural.

At one point, Lucas wanted to further her education, but was told she was too old. Undaunted, she attended Columbia Pacific University, where she received her PhD at the age of 63. Lucas was a professor of art education at the University of New Mexico for 18 years.

She now teaches Art Education with Osher Lifelong Learning, at the University of Utah. She is certified in gerontology, and her next big project will be to take a handful of her senior students who are accomplished artists and bring them to McPolin for a massive tile mural, a project of patriotism, the mural will be called "Cornerstones of Democracy." McPolin students will make the tiles out of clay, paint them and the resulting tiles will be fired and assembled into a freedom mural.

Lucas loves children. "Their art is very beautiful. Very precious.

Lucas said that arts touch base with the soul, something math and English don’t do. She spoke of her finding her dream in life.

"I followed my bliss. I found my talent. When I practiced art, I was really happy."

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