Central High School's new mural 'screams Tiger pride'

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Central High School students recently failed to convince the Cape Girardeau City Council to rename a section of the street in front of the school Tiger Pride Drive, but they now have something much more arresting than a street sign to be proud of.

Cape Girardeau artist Craig Thomas has just completed a tiger mural inside the school that drivers on nearby Interstate 55 can see through the glass walls of the cafeteria.

The 26-by-19-foot mural is in the hallway east of the school's cafeteria. The center is dominated by a huge tiger head, with the full figures of smaller tigers on both sides.

At night, the tiger's orange and black head is illuminated by spotlights.

"This screams Tiger pride," says Katie Porter, president of the CHS student senate.

At first, the school's booster club president wasn't sure helping to pay for a mural was the best use of the club's funds. A weight room, a new trophy case, calculators and an indoor batting cage are among the items the club recently has helped the school buy.

But, says president Roger Hudson, "As long as I've been on the booster club, I'm not sure I'm not prouder of this than anything we've done.

"... I love those tiger eyes."

Many people comment on the striking eyes. Thomas employed more detail in the eyes than in other parts of the tiger's head. "I started with the eyes and I finished with the eyes," he said.

The booster club and the student senate shared the $2,000 cost of the mural, which Thomas painted at a discounted price. He and his wife, Beth, have two children in the Cape Girardeau school system. Beth teaches art at Franklin School.

Kathie Brennan, secretary of the booster club, said the mural at the school and the many murals in Cape Girardeau tie the school and city together even more closely. The mural also gives the new school more color and identity. "A lot of students felt it looked like a hospital," Brennan said.

There has been a daily traffic jam in the hallway caused by students looking at the mural's progress, Porter said. The motion to help pay for the mural passed unanimously in the student senate.

Assistant principal Cory Crosnoe said the school was designed to allow for a mural in the tiger's location. Thomas was an easy choice as the muralist, he said. "We wanted the best person. Craig Thomas was on top of our list."

Among other locations, Thomas also has murals in Franklin School, the former Washington School and the Recreation Center at Southeast Missouri State University. His large-scale painting recently commissioned by the Department of Theater and Dance hangs in the lobby of Rose Theatre on the campus.

Thomas used a rented lift to paint the mural, which is 17 feet off the floor. He spent the past two weeks painting, primarily at night.

The larger image is based on a photograph of a tiger in National Geographic.

Space remains on both sides of the mural for additions. Thomas said he already has some ideas.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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