Twelve months after overcoming the challenges set forth by cracked, warped and shrinking clay pieces, the students from last year’s Advanced Art Class at Ironwood Ridge High School have unveiled their mosaic mural at the entrance to the school, just in time for the new school year.

The mural, depicting a sunset sky above a mountain range with an ironwood tree and a soaring nighthawk, spans across four pillars just beyond the gated entry to the school.

At the start of last Thursday’s dedication ceremony, the school’s principal, Michael Bejarano, recalled the moment when the art class members approached him last year with their PowerPoint presentation.

He wanted to be encouraging, but he also recognized the difficulties the students would face in getting approvals from local school officials and the district school board before they would be allowed to create a mural for the front of the school.

He couldn’t be more pleased that they were able to complete the mural.

“When I walk in every morning, where I see what used to be blank stone walls, I see life,” Bejarano said.

The class’s instructor, Mimi Griffis, then took the opportunity during the ceremony to thank all of the students, parents and volunteers who helped make the mural possible.

“I did the mosaic mural in the arts building, but being given the responsibility to do the entrance to the school, it was tremendous,” Griffis said after the ceremony about doing similar projects.

One of those students who helped was Joe Caputo, who graduated last school year. Caputo is about to enter the United States Air Force; still, he returned to IRHS to help commemorate the project.

Caputo started working on the tiles for the sky. After seeing there were not as many classmates working on the mountains, he decided to switch duties.

“We used so much clay,” Caputo recalled. “We used well over 100 pound of clay.”

He remembered returning to school after a weeklong break only to find the mountain range he had created prior to the break had dried up, and was warped and broken.

“It was a huge obstacle to overcome,” Caputo said. “But it ended up looking better than it did in the first place.”

Overcoming so many hurdles helped prepare the students for the real world, thought Griffis.

“Growing up, you have no idea the things out in this world that you have to overcome,” the instructor said. “The struggles make you stronger.”

The difficulty of the art project hasn’t deterred her or any of her future students. This coming school year, she plans to have the Advanced Art Class work with the student government class, “StuGo,” to make the initials “IR” out of ceramic and wrought iron. The plans call for the letters to be freestanding and three-dimensional.

Programs and art projects like these are made possible with donations to the school’s fine arts booster program. Readers who would like to donate raw materials or to donate to the booster club, can contact club member Jennifer Vigil at

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