It’s homecoming week at Tooele High School, complete with the usual traditions: lighting of the T, a dance, a Friday night football against Cedar Valley and the annual parade down Main street.
A new homecoming tradition, now anticipated by students each year, is the “Tooeleizing” of famous masterpiece artwork, according to art teacher Ruth Nichols.
Tooeleizing involve staking the traditional piece of art and adding a Tooele High School twist.
For example — combine Leonardo’s masterpiece “Mona Lisa,” with the creative minds of teenage artists and a big dose of school spirit and you get — “ Buffa Lisa.”
The new tradition started six or seven years ago and every year it grows bigger and bigger, according to Nichols.
Original artwork is reimagined and transformed to include a little bit of THS, such as a T carefully added to the guitar of Pablo Picasso’s “Old Guitarist” or a buffalo with the face of Tooele High School Principal Andy Carlsen added to “American Gothic” by Grant Wood.
The transformed artwork is done in chalk outside Tooele High School’s football stadium.
“We get more and more of them every year,” said Nichols.
The masterpieces included in the outdoor chalk murals are up to the students, but before they put their chalk to concrete the students learn a little bit of history about the artwork.
“We always have at least one Van Gogh portrait,” Nichols said. “Most of the time we end up with ‘The Starry Night’ by Van Gogh and the Mona Lisa usually shows up as a buffalo.”
One off this year’s pieces of Tooeleized art is outside the usual realm of classic paintings — it’s based on the Avengers.
Nichols approved the choice, even though it’s not a famous artwork.
“They talked me into it,” she said. “Sometimes you just go with what they are passionate about because then they put their heart and soul into it.”
The chalk mural homecoming project is reserved for the advanced students, according to Nichols.
“The foundation students sometimes move on to the advanced classes because they want to be involved in the project.” Nichols said. “The foundation kids always look forward to doing this. They say they are going to take the advanced class so they can do this.”
Nichols doesn’t have favorites, she said she likes them all.
“But,” she added, “it’s fun to watch a group that struggled at the beginning pull it together. They get to be proud of themselves and I get to be proud of them.”
Nichols feels the process of recreating the famous artwork helps the students know more about the pieces they recreate.
“They learn a little art history and they learn from their friends,” she said. “They have to do enough research about it to say, ‘What style is he working in?’”
Nichols points out the Tooeleized “Hand of God” that student Alivia Browell is working on, where the Michelangelo hand is touching Buff.
“She (Browell) is looking at great masterwork and studies it so she can copy it,” Nichols said. “There’s a lot of learning in that.”
The advanced art students began work on the temporary chalk art murals on Monday. They finish them before Friday night’s homecoming football game.
There are more than ten murals in the process of being completed. Nichols is confident the murals will be ready for the game.
Students put a lot of hours into the project, according to Nichols.
“They worked on the murals during their classes, as well as putting in the time after school and during lunch too,” she said. “These are responsible kids. They are really good kids.”