Love the Bay?

When it comes to wearing your heart on your sleeve, Muddy Creek Animal Hospital, in the rural crossroads known as West River, has reached a new high. The artists of Southern High School have splashed a celebration of the Southern Anne Arundel environment — from Bay to wetlands to farm fields — onto the vet clinic’s 25-foot-high exterior wall.
    The evocative mural realizes a long-held dream for Grant Nisson, whose veterinarian “family practice” has thrived in the rural area he chose 23 years ago to get away from congestion and into open space.
    “He’s wanted a mural of South County since we bought this bigger building in 2003,” says Debbie Fischell, Nisson’s wife and an officer in the company.
    Mike Bell, a 16-year veteran at Southern High School and chairman of its thriving art department, Bell was a muralist before he turned to teaching and to putting his paint on canvas rather than walls. From his first commission, an atmospheric mural for a tiki bar in Baltimore, he’d enjoyed having his work out there and capturing people’s attention.
    That was a thrill he’s shared with his students, who’ve covered the hallways of Southern with modern versions of the world’s oldest form of wall art.
    The day after school closed for the summer, up the art team climbed. In three and a half days — blessed with mild temperatures and low humidity — the mural took shape.
    Before they hit the wall with their brushes, the 11 kids and Bell had chosen images they wanted to include and envisioned the image to tell their story.
    “You need to show through your art what you believe,” said 17-year-old Tyler Mills of Fairhaven. The message in the mural, which includes the logo of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, was Save the Bay.
    “I can’t believe I’m swimming in a Bay that got failing grades on water quality. We’re expressing how clear the water could be,” explained Tyler, who designed the mural. “Then everyone helped out with everything,” he said.
    “Our only National Arts Honor Society officer returning next year, Tyler is an incredible leader in organizing the kids,” said his teacher.
    But, Bell added, “The real story is how dedicated these kids are in creating things together. These kids are going to be the leaders of our art program.”
    It’s a program that drew $2 million in scholarships to Southern last year.
    “Our students are going off to the best schools in the nation,” Bell said.
    Helping these 11 shape their futures are the accolades they earned while practicing the art of Michelangelo on a cinderblock wall last week.
    “A lot of people drove by at the bank next door while we were painting,” Tyler said. “It’s lovely, amazing, thank you so much, they said.
    “We’re proud of it.”
    Other Southern High School artists on the Muddy Creek Animal Hospital mural team are Cat Allen, Summer Cox, Jess Ford, Kim Hagopian, Russell Heller, Rebecca Jobes, Bri Linehan, Victoria Martz, Katrina Moore and Hannah Mosby.