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Huntington art students make mark

Mar. 18, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Courtney Arnold remembers what it was like as a senior at Huntington High School 13 years ago, and how much it impacted what she has done with her life.

Arnold is an art teacher at Hite-Saunders Elementary, a passion that was inspired during her senior year when she painted one of the tiles in the hallway leading to the art department.

"I think about that all the time," Arnold said. "If not for my high school experience, I wouldn't be an art teacher. When we did the senior tiles, it was so exciting to get to leave something behind."

Even after more than 15 years, there is plenty of space on the wall for future generations to put their thoughts, words and life experiences on a tile by paint or by making a ceramic tile that will be put on the wall.

Jennifer Wiley, who teaches ceramics, said the tiles are beautiful reflections of all the senior art students.

"Within the mural of tiles, you will find self portraits, breathtaking landscapes and objects of current culture," Wiley said. "Many tiles express the students' interests ... or commemorate moments of history such as the eventful day of 9/11. Each is a personal expression, yet each speaks about the generation and culture in which it was created."

The senior tile tradition also brings students and classes together. Tyler Gaca can attest to that. Gaca moved to Huntington from Virginia Beach during his junior year and said knowing his ceramic tile will hang on the wall for years to come has made him feel like a true Highlander.

"I just wanted to make something that when art teachers walked by, they would say, 'That's Tyler,'" said Gaca, president of the Art Honorary Club.

Other students also said they wanted to express their feelings and lives through their art, hoping to inspire future students; or at least be a marker for the class of 2013.

Paige Perry, 18, is a firefighter with the Green Valley Volunteer Fire Department. Her ceramic tile reflects that and includes her badge number.

"I just want to be able to make a difference," Perry said. "I want people to know we are out there."

Hannah Bailes said it's about doing something you'll be proud to look back on.

"It's something to leave the school with, and it's the highlight of the year," Bailes said. "Your senior tile is one of the last things you'll do at school."

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