Wall mural at ALHS near completion

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 28, 2002

On the wall in the corridor of Albert Lea High School a mural is strewn. Imagined and abstract pod shapes flow, with no distinct pattern, across the 100 foot wall and climb the wall where the stairs begin.

“I had the idea that since this is in a school, where students are challenged in the classroom, I might as well challenge them in viewing the piece,” Mike Hall, the artist who was commissioned for the piece, said. “Each day they look at it they might have a different idea of what it is, or they might see something in a brand new way.”

The shapes are varied in size and make up. Some are as large as eight feet wide, some are very small. Some have stained glass, wood, melted glass, clear glass, or ceramic materials inserted in them. The shapes have elements of natural world items, many like pod forms, but aren’t made to be directly recognizable, according to Hall.

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Lilah Aas, a member of Albert Lea school district’s CAPP (Comprehensive Arts Planning Program) committee, said the installation is very fitting for the school.

“The piece reminds me of students in a way,” she said. “I was a teacher for a long time, and I found that students are so different. But each are different based on your perspective. In the same way the shape in the mural is different to each person. As a whole, just as in a student body, that is what makes it interesting.”

The shapes are made out of iron frames. Hall bent, pinched, stretched and welded each of them.

“I just let the pieces sort of form themselves,” Hall said. “When making them I wanted to be as spontaneous and free as I could be.”

Another important thing to Hall was to get the community involved in the project.

Members of the community designed and built many of the inserts that were put into the composition. Hall worked with art students at the high school for one week, helping them make inserts for the iron frames. Local companies and artists also put in some pieces as well.

“Getting community involvement was probably the most important part of the project to me,” Hall said. “It really is theirs, so why shouldn’t they help in designing it?”

The installation is near completion now. A glass company in Owatonna will be putting some sheets of glass into a few of the shapes and a few artists have yet to put their additions in. But Hall expects the project to be done very soon, though he wasn’t sure of an exact date.

It has been two years in the making.

“As a whole this was challenging. Working on the individual pieces was easy and fun, but the larger concept was difficult,” Hall said. “I knew I had to make something that would really fit the space. I just wanted to examine all the possibilities.”

The architect of the high school has told Aas that he thinks Hall should put similar shapes throughout the school to get a continuity. Aas said she hopes that can happen.

&uot;It is so unique for a school to have something like this,&uot; Aas said. &uot;We’re very lucky.&uot;