Terry Wright (lf) and David “Grave” Herrera (rt) | Photo courtesy EPISD

Public art at new Coronado High campus to be created by Alum and former CHS teacher

Coronado alum and local artist David “Grave” Herrera never took an art class at his alma mater, but he hopes a new T-Bird mural he’s been commissioned to install on the new campus will make up for the missed opportunity.

The 1990 graduate partnered with another El Paso artist, Jeremiah Navarro, to bid on a mural project to enhance the 2016 Bond reconstruction project. The colorful mural will grace the side of the new A Building and will depict the spirit of the thunderbird – a representation of the school’s mascot and landmark shaped by the pigmentation on the Franklin Mountains.

“When this opportunity came up, it felt natural,” said Herrera, who worked on the Frida Kahlo mural that can be seen across the street from Coronado at the La Villita. “It was a long time coming. It’s an honor and blessing.”

Herrera recalls his days at Coronado staring at walls where students would paint murals annually.

“Now as a muralist, I get to create something where I had the best memories of my life and experiences,” he said, glancing over to the attendance office where he got up the courage to ask out his now wife. “We don’t realize this now, but these are some precious times in your life.”

Herrera and Navarro hope to begin painting their nearly 600-square-foot mural in late April or early May. Funds for the mural came from the Coronado Class of 2017, which left the mural as a class gift.

“The design incorporates the logo of the high school merged into the iconic Franklin Mountains and southwest-area landscaping,” Herrera said. “We are still fine tuning the design.  We want to meet the challenge and vision (of the Class of 2017) and for future generations of Coronado students to enjoy.”

The 10 artists who submitted bids for the large-scale mural including some from throughout the United States. But the committee, was pleased to offer the project to artists with ties to the campus and its traditions.

“We’re really happy the artists are local – especially people like David who have an affinity with the school,” said Julie Kallman, a Coronado alum and parent sponsor for the Class of 2017. “All of the designs were so beautiful. It was hard to decide.”

Among the designs submitted was that of former art teacher Terry Wright. Her mosaic T-Bird design impressed the committee, but the tile design was too small for the bigger palette on A Building. The funding allowed the Class of 2017 to also fund this project.

“When the T-Bird flaps its wings, it creates lighting, so there’s lightening in sky and a shadow of the T-Bird on the mountain,” Wright said, in describing her design. “They found a wall for me in the counseling center and the Class of 2019 is supporting it.”

Wright taught at Coronado for eight years which included a year when one son was a student and another a teacher. A recent visit to Coronado gave her a chance to see the murals she and her Art Club students designed during her tenure.

“We’re a Coronado family,” she said. “To come back to Coronado after I retired is really awesome. It makes me feel good to leave something behind.”

Kallman hopes to feature more thunderbird designs from the pool of bidders.

“One other artist has a beautiful piece. It would be great if we could find another alum or another class interested in underwriting hers,” she said.

Anyone interested in sponsoring another mural can contact Kallman at [email protected].

Story by Reneé de Santos – Photos by Rose Lucero  | El Paso ISD