News from the Valley Journal
A tile mosaic project that involved more than 100 students was presented to the public on Sunday.
The mural was a graduate-level University of Montana project for Cameron Decker, chair of the fine arts department at Salish Kootenai College.
Polson High School art teacher Matt Holmes, a licensed tile contractor who has completed numerous tile projects, involved his high school students and others in the nine-month-long project.
Decker said Holmes taught him how to cut tile, and Holmes said that in addition to his art students, the Boys and Girls Club and Upward Bound youth were involved, along with his two daughters, the latter which made tile turtles.
Holmes added his signature Charlie Russell bison skull to the top of the three-piece mural, which represents morning, afternoon and evening.
“We started with just words … thinking about Riverside Park, Polson and Montana,” Holmes said of his students’ brainstorming. “The board was full of hundreds of words.”
Decker said he just wanted to give back to the community with his project. “From jumping and fishing at the dock, to jumping in the freezing water at the Polar Plunge, to watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, Riverside Park has been a place I have gone my whole life to have fun,” he said.
Decker said the project taught him about teamwork and how to depend on other people to do their parts.
Holmes said it took three days for him and a number of helpers to put the final product on the back outside wall of restrooms at Riverside Park facing the South Fork of the Flathead River.
To see the project finished was amazing, said Kyara Fraga, a PHS junior who worked on some 20 pieces of the mural during her sophomore year.
“Just to see it finished and know we helped with it is a good feeling,” said Haley Doss, another PHS junior.
“It’s just been jaw dropping … to see the original plans to where it is today,” said Toni Young, president of the Greater Polson Community Foundation, which donated $3,000 to the effort. Suzanne Booker, the Cowan Trust and the Jarecki Foundation combined to donate another $3,000, Young said.
The mural consists of three 30-square-foot panels depicting Flathead Lake and various animals with a Kootenai woman included in the center panel.
The project also honored the late William Cleveland, a former Polson Police officer who died from cancer in November 2015 at age 50.
Cleveland’s widow Toni and her sons David, 23, and Nick, 15, helped place the final tile into the mural during a ceremony on Sunday afternoon. The tile is a replica of Cleveland’s badge.
“I think it’s beautiful,” Toni Cleveland said afterward.
“It’s amazing,” David said. “It’s awesome that two years later everyone is still coming together thinking about my dad.”
Polson’s Arts and Recreation Director Pat Nowlen said the city plans to add several benches to the concrete platform in front of the mural, including one with a plaque dedicated to Cleveland. A shade structure and improved lighting will also be added next year, he said.