Peabody Provides PA Students with a New Artistic Outlet

Students have intensified their artistic talents at Phillips Academy with the introduction of student art work in the Peabody Museum.

Although student work is usually featured in the Elson Art Center, the Gelb Gallery and the OWHL, Prim Chanarat ’11 and Pei Choong ’11 were commissioned to paint a mural for the office of Donald Slater, Museum Educator at the Peabody Museum.

“During the [Peabody] Museum’s recent renovation, a wall was demolished, re-configured, and reconstructed in my office. When I saw it finished, it looked like a giant canvas begging for a mural,” said Slater in an e-mail to the Phillipian.

After viewing the blank canvas, Slater knew immediately that he wanted Andover students to fill the canvas.

“After nine years at Andover, I am keenly aware of the unbelievable talent of the students at Andover. Plus, as an educator at the [Peabody] Museum, to have the mural painted by students would make it that much more meaningful to the [Peabody] Museum’s mission and to me on a personal level,” said Slater.

Chanarat and Choong were recommended to Slater by Ms. Trespas, Instructor in Art. “We were excited about this opportunity,” said Chanarat. “We were approached in the fall term for the mural, while we were in Painting I. Since I knew that I wasn’t going to continue to Painting II, this was a good opportunity for me to carry on painting as well.”

The image chosen for Chanarat and Choong to paint was a 2,100 year old cave mural from the Mayan site in San Bartolo, Guatemala.

“The scene depicts a zoomorphic mountain and cave mouth teeming with plant and animal life. Men and women in the scene are also making offerings to the central figure of the mural, the Maya corn god,” said Slater. Since Slater’s main area of research lies in the ancient Mayan civilization, this image was the perfect choice.

The project took a total of about six weeks to be completed, throughout fall and winter term.

“It’s a great honor to have our work in a wall of the museum,” said Chanarat.

As the two student artists applied their last few brush strokes, Slater was blown away by the final outcome.

“Pei and Prim’s talent is remarkable. They were so accurate with the details. In addition, Prim and Pei were so dedicated and were a pleasure to work with,” said Slater.

Slater was so impressed by the replication of the cave mural that he suggested sharing images of the work with Dr. Heather Hurst, who was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for her reconstruction paintings of the mural in San Bartolo, Guatemala. He also shared the images with Dr. William Saturno, the archaeologist who discovered one of the oldest Mayan caves in Guatemala in 2001.

“I knew [Chanarat and Choong would] do a nice job, but I never expected this level of precision and professionalism… After my positive experience with Pei and Prim, I would definitely be interested in working more closely with art students. There are definitely other lonely blank walls in the building,” said Slater.

Now that one giant canvas has been transformed into a masterpiece, completed with dark reds, bright yellows and exact ebony, perhaps PA students will be bestowed with a new outlet into art and history.