Artwork was a team project, with students contributing to final product by Paul Johnson 

By Louis Hoglund

It’s a big piece of visual art that has a little something for everyone —created by just about everyone.

Plus, every color of the rainbow. 

The new downtown Pelican Rapids mural will be a large splash of color in the downtown cityscape. A collaboration between the Pelican Viking Elementary School and artist Paul Johnson, the mural incorporated bits and pieces of dozens of designs. 

In fact, art elements from 80 percent of all Pelican grade 6 student work were incorporated into the final design, noted art teacher Kate Woolever-Martinez. 

Students voted on what the mural should say, and the winning phrase was “Welcome to Pelican Rapids.”

A smaller version of the mural is on display at the library, as part of the elementary student art exhibit. 

The mural will be installed May 12.

After Woolever-Martinez showed the final design to different elementary classes, there was one amazing quote that stood out to her. It was by kindergartener Isabella Gullingsrud.

“I love that art!”… 

“Why do you love it, Isabella?”

“Because there is a black hand and a white hand together showing friendship. The black hand is Ahmed’s and the white hand is mine.”

All of the sixth-grade students, who contributed to the artwork for the new downtown mural, gathered for a large group photo. A miniature version of the mural, at center of the group.

Artist Johnson, himself a Pelican graduate and well known for his annual mural work for the Concordia College Christmas concerts for the past 13 years, explained a bit about the process.

“After scanning each of the kid’s art, I imported each of the art pieces into Adobe Photoshop and created a new landscape by combining all the images,” said Johnson.

The finished product will be printed on six, 4 foot by 8 foot, 1/8 inch thick white aluminum panels. 

Students point at some of their art elements, which were incorporated into the mural that will be installed May 12 in downtown Pelican Rapids.
Paul Johnson surrounded by Pelican sixth grade students, with whom he worked on the downtown Pelican mural during the winter.
A student working on an illustration last winter, which was incorporated into the mosaic-style mural.

“It is always a joy to work with kids. They are so easy to inspire and hungry to learn,” said Johnson.

Johnson graduated in 1978 in Pelican, and lists longtime art teacher Jim Fletcher, now retired, as a key inspiration “because he inspired and instructed me with kindness, humor and passion.”

“When I was in 6th grade, the class was almost entirely made up of faces like mine,” said Johnson of his classroom experiences during the winter in Pelican. “When I looked into the faces of Kate’s 6th grade class, it looked like a true representation of the world, and not one tiny sliver of it. They all laugh and talk and connect with each other without pause. If we could all interact like our children, what a great world it would be.”