The Discovery Club and Team Haverhill unveiled three new murals at Nettle Middle School on Thursday, April 2, all of which will be mounted downtown on George's Restaurant on Sunday, May 3, during Kids Fest.
Discovery Club students from Whittier, Consentino and Nettle middle schools worked with two local artists, Elizabeth Persing and Alan Pearsall, for eight weeks on the works of art.
Persing helped Consentino students create "Hats Off to Haverhill" and Whittier students complete "Queen Slipper City," while Pearsall helped Nettle students on "Shoe City Boxing." Each artist researched and designed each image give students a better understanding of Haverhill's history.
Teaching the students about painting and the history of the murals was a first-time experience for Persing.
"I was nervous at first because I've never taught before, but it turned out great. The kids actually did most of the painting. They were great and we had a lot of fun with these projects. I'm so proud of them," Persing said.
Pearsall, who has taught art for the past 10 years, said he enjoyed the experience and would love to do it again in the future.
"The kids did such a great job. We had a tough one but it came out amazing. All the kids worked really hard and I would definitely love to work with the Discovery Club again," Pearsall said.
Each student created an individual painting as part of the project.
Crystal Willette, 12, painted a portrait of Buchanan. Her choice paid off. Literally. Willette shouted, "I'm a professional now!" after Buchanan bought the portrait for $20.
This was the second year participating in the Discovery Club for seventh-grade Nettle School student Shantay Davis, 12.
"I've been interested in art since I was 6 years old. This was a great experience and I learned a lot this year. I'm thankful to Alan for giving me the gift of painting and a memory greater than any other," Davis said.
Kelsey Chenevert, 13, a seventh-grader at Whittier, joined the Discovery Club this year.
"This is my first time doing something like this. I found it really interesting and enjoyed the experience a lot. I love to paint and I had a lot of fun," Chenevert said.
Consentino seventh-grader Jordan Langlois, 13, said she loved helping with the murals.
"I had a great experience with Liz and a whole lot of fun doing this," Langlois said.
Tina Fuller, after-school program director for Haverhill, said the project offered students the opportunity to work with professional artists on a real-world project.
"Their participation in the creation of a piece of art that will be so prominently and permanently displayed is an unusual opportunity. These students can take pride in helping to beautify the city," Fuller said.
Fred Habeeb, owner of George's at the Vault restaurant, said he will put lighting on the outside of the building so everyone can see the murals.
"The kids did an outstanding job and I feel privileged to have them on my building," Habeeb said.
Superintendent Raleigh Buchanan said it is days like these that make him proud to be the city's superintendent.
"Every time I see a project like this done by our students it makes me so proud," Buchanan said.
Mayor James Fiorentini and School Committee member Joseph Bevilacqua were also in attendance for the unveiling.
"I am so proud of all who took part in this. They will be a great addition to the downtown," Fiorentini said.
"The best part of all this is the kids' enthusiasm. What's great about the murals is they tie in Haverhill's history with the kids' art. They've done an amazing job," Bevilacqua said.
about the murals
Nettle students painted two boxers who fought at the Shoe City Boxing club in Haverhill on April 18, 1904. Billy Hill fought from 1891 to 1913 and Belfield Walcott fought from 1898 to 1909. Shoe City Boxing became the Haverhill Boxing Club, which is still in existence today.
Consentino worked on "Hats Off to Haverhill," highlighting the thriving hat industry in the city which began in 1747 with Jonathan Webster. In 1927, the Bradford Hat Corp. employed 500 people, turning out 18,000 dozen hats daily. In 1931, they doubled their workforce to make 30,000 hats for women, men and children. About the same time, the Merrimac Hat Co. in Amesbury needed room for expansion and opened a plant in Haverhill at the C.W. Arnold building on Wingate Street.
Whittier students' mural celebrates Haverhill's status as Queen Slipper City, manufacturer of elegant ladies shoes. The shoe industry thrived in Haverhill for 180 years. When the great fire of 1882 leveled 10 acres downtown, the vitality of the shoe industry was a driving force in rebuilding the city in the brick Queen Anne style that we see today on Washington Street.