Career Prep students finish Christmas mural

Noel Lyn Smith
Quinston Watchman, a freshman at Career Prep High School, works on a mural on Monday at the school in Shiprock.

SHIPROCK — For a couple of weeks, a group of Career Prep High School students have been working on a mural to share the holiday spirit with students and faculty.

The mural, which depicts a Christmas celebration on the Navajo Nation, was about 95 percent done on Monday afternoon.

Located in the commons area of the school, the mural was designed by freshman Quinston Watchman and senior Daryn Pinto.

Joseph Chee, a Navajo culture and language and social studies teacher, proposed the idea to give the school a holiday feeling.

"It's a combination of notions they've kicked around and talked about it," Chee said while looking at the mural.

Because the school does not offer art classes, Chee taught students how to blend colors and purchased some of the necessary supplies.

"I think it portrays that we do have a lot of hidden talents. Some of the key ingredients to success (are) bringing out those hidden talents so students are able to go further in their endeavors," he said.

Daryn Pinto, a senior at Career Prep High School, applies pastel chalk to a mural on Monday at the school in Shiprock.

Watchman asked Pinto to help with the project because the two students have collaborated on previous art projects.

But, Pinto said, this was the first time they worked on a mural of this size — it spans 20 feet wide and 4 feet high — and used pastels.

Some of the mural's images were inspired by an illustration of Santa Claus building a snowman. But instead of Santa, Watchman and Pinto drew a Navajo grandmother, wrapped in a blanket, wearing moccasins and standing behind a "mud man" decorated in silver and turquoise jewelry.

"In place of a snowman, we made it a mud man since around these parts we barely get any snow," Watchman said.

They also drew a hogan, the Shiprock pinnacle, animals and a tree decorated with ornaments, a sash belt and a wedding basket. Near one corner of the mural, they drew the school mascot, a phoenix.

"We expanded it," Pinto said about the Santa Claus illustration.

"And made it our own," Watchman added.

From left, Justin Norberto and Marcos Montecinos, both sophomores at Career Prep High School, work on a mural on Monday at the school in Shiprock.

Work on the mural started two weeks ago when Watchman and Pinto drew the images in pencil. Once the depictions were in place, they traced them with markers and then colored in the shapes with pastels.

Eventually, the project grew to include junior Natasha Begaye; sophomores Justin Norberto, Narcissus Begay and Marcos Montecinos; and senior Carlyn Redhouse.

Begaye's contribution included using red and white pastels to color the phrases, "Yá'át'ééh Keshmish" and "Doo Baa Hózhoogo Nee Nináadoohah," which, respectively, mean "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year," in the Navajo language.

"It's gorgeous," Begaye said about the artwork.

The group worked on the mural between classes and during testing at the end of the semester.

"It looks nice. It reminds me of a long time ago at my grandmother’s house," Montecinos said.

From time to time, students have paused between classes to watch the work or comment on its progress, Pinto said.

"Art is a freedom of expression, to try whatever you feel. It’s also an experiment," Pinto said.

The seven students, who each signed their names on an ornament depicted in the mural, said they would like the artwork to remain in the school's commons area for the season.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.