Art students breathe new life into historic cistern

  • Friday, November 22, 2013

Photographs by Taylor Griffith/Journal Scene Summerville High School students Caitlin Carroll (left) and Ethan Bolt (right) discuss the cistern mural with Fort Dorchester High School art teacher Jeremy Hedges.


Unless you work in the businesses on the east side of Hutchinson Square, most people probably don’t know there is a 100-year-old water cistern behind the Summerville Dorchester Museum.

It has sat quietly since the early 1900s, watching the Town grow as its use became defunct, the concrete collecting dirt, grime and graffiti as years passed.

But Tuesday morning the cistern and those who use the surrounding parking lot got a colorful surprise: Around 30 students from four area schools came armed with brushes, pizza and designs to paint a mural on the cistern.

The art students hail from Ashley Ridge, Fort Dorchester and Summerville high schools and Rollings Middle School of the Arts. According to the teachers on site, the students – who range in age from 7th – 9th grade – are all members of the schools’ respective National Junior Art Honor Society chapters.

The group started around 8 a.m., first sketching their collaborative design on the tank before applying paint.

“It’s an evolutionary piece, a time thing,” said SHS art teacher Steven Bailey. “Summerville’s history is progressing throughout the painting.”

According to Rollings art teacher Meg Skow, the schools each invited students to develop ideas before bringing the concepts together and creating the overall design.

“There were lots of similarities,” she said. “When you have kids like we do, in the beginning it’s always chaotic but then they take ownership of it and just fly.”

The design starts with a pitcher of icy sweet tea, pouring out onto the white background and becoming a river, which winds through Summerville’s history. First it addresses the Coosaw Native Americans who were native to the area, then the growth of the town as led by the railroad and the Best Friend of Charleston locomotive. Summerville’s iconic pinecones and azalea blooms make way for a modern scene of the historic downtown, featuring Town Hall and Hutchinson Square. Images of students painting the mural end the piece, leaving white space to signify the future.

“It represents that there’s still more things we can do,” said Summerville High School student Ethan Bolt.

Although it was originally planned to be a one-day project, the group stopped painting early as the sun began to set and cloudy skies loomed. They are scheduled to complete the piece and finish it with an epoxy sealant this weekend, according to ARHS art teacher Catherine Ellis.

The mural will be complementary to its neighboring Summerville Dorchester Museum. Curator Chris Ohm said the students came in and out of the museum as they painted, checking historical pictures to make sure their drawings were accurate.

“The kids had such a good time, it would be nice if there are other places around town that the school kids could be involved with,” he said. “These are the things that bring the town together, that teach the right values to our kids and it’s just a bonus that they include history too.”

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