Members of the 2012 graduating class of York Comprehensive High School wanted to leave a legacy that would last as long as the school is standing. They can leave knowing that they have.
As their parting gift to the school, seniors decided to start a fund for a mural on the wall of the school gymnasium. On Friday — after a three-day flurry of work by an Atlanta-based artist duo — the finished mural of a crouching Cougar amid the words “Cougar Pride” was unveiled to thrilled students and staff.
“It adds life to the gym,” said Molly Ramsey, 18, one of about a dozen students who served on a steering committee to organize the senior class gift. “For the past two years, it has been pretty boring in here. This kind of brings back the memories of the old school.”
York Principal Diane Howell said a school mascot mural for the new gym has been one of the needs since York’s new high school opened in the fall of 2010. When Howell offered it to a student steering committee as one of several ideas for a senior class gift to the school, students decided to run with it.
“It’s been amazing to watch the students as they come in and see it — the wow factor,” Howell said about the finished mural. “I’m very pleased. My happiness comes from watching the students.”
Atlanta-based Stacy Ridgeway and his son, Stace Ridgeway, painted the mural in just three 16-hour days, starting Tuesday. Howell said she and athletic director Steve Boyd met the Ridgeways earlier this spring, at a Charleston conference of the S.C. High School League.
Howell said she and Boyd knew they eventually would like to have a mural in the gym. Ridgeway said his company, Mural Mural on the Wall, has painted more than 13,000 murals throughout 26 years, many of them in schools.
“It had to be forceful enough and intimidating enough to work,” Stacy Ridgeway said of the Cougar design, which he created. When the students saw the design, he said, “they were just buzzing.”
Senior committee member Colby Cameron, 18, said she likes the mural because “it smacks with color. It gives definition to the wall. And it represents us. It really does.” Cameron said the art “is going to carry on for the rest of the time that this building is here.”
Howell said Ridgeway completed several other smaller art projects at the school, with the total cost about $13,000. She said the senior class will contribute about $4,000. The school was able to pool money from athletic funds and other sources to pay for the rest.
The other projects include a smaller Cougar mural on the wall of the weight room, some Cougar paw art in the wrestling room and lettering on a wall where the photos of student body presidents are displayed.
Tyrell Long, 18, also a steering committee member, noted that next fall will be the 30th anniversary of the York Cougar mascot. “It represents our school as a whole,” he said. “We are on top of the mountain.”