Hebron High School students involved in the creation of Hebron's newly unveiled community mural stand in front of their work. (Kyle Telechan / Post-Tribune)
Hebron High School students involved in the creation of Hebron's newly unveiled community mural stand in front of their work. (Kyle Telechan / Post-Tribune)
When officials recently asked retired Hebron High School art teacher Karen Jania for a mural depicting the town’s history, they received so much more than expected, according to Town Councilman David Peeler, D-At-large.

“With that, I say thank you for the gift you’ve given us,” he said.

With temperatures barely pushing into the low 40s on Saturday and steadily increasing rain, about 100 people, many clutching umbrellas and wearing jackets with their hoods up, applauded and cheered a drop of a blue tarp that revealed more than 1,100 hours of work by students who were tasked with depicting the town’s history.

The three panels of the mural, each 4 feet by 8 feet and encased in protective clear plastic, are displayed at the northeast corner of Main and Sigler streets by the town’s clocktower.

The mural depicts the town’s past, present and also the student painters’ hopes for the future with sepia-toned images of downtown and the suffragist movement, as well as colorful renditions of the high school and children in a splashpad.

After apologizing for the weather, Jania called up the current students and recent graduates who helped research and paint the mural — an effort that was funded by the town’s redevelopment commission.

When she started the project, Jania said, she thought the students would block out the mural and she would hire professionals to paint it.

“These kids blew me away,” she said, noting the many hours they spent painting it over the summer on top of their work and school obligations. “Your kids, your public school kids, came out and did this over the summer, and I could not be prouder of them.”

Fueled by what Jania said were hundreds of dollars in doughnuts, as well as food from the local Dairy Queen and Subway, the students asked for nothing else in return for their effort.

“They didn’t have to do it, but they love our community," she said. “I do, too.”

The hours the students spent painting don’t account for the time they also spent doing research for the mural, she said, adding how she enjoyed working beside them as fellow artists, although she did boss them around a little bit.

“A mural isn’t something you do to a community. It’s something you do with a community,” said Jania, who retired at the end of the school year but continued to assist with the mural. “After 19 years of teaching at Hebron, thank you for letting me be a part of your community.”

Current and former students who helped with the mural posed for pictures after the reveal, and members of the community stepped closer to catch a better look at their work.

Park board member Linda Brebner was one of the onlookers.

When officials first started talking about the project, she said, she hoped they would ask high school students to assist.

“We have some amazing artists,” she said.

Former students appreciated the opportunity to work on a project that will serve the town for years.

“It was amazing, especially being able to work with Karen (Jania) as an artist because she was my teacher throughout high school,” said Lauren Marrie, 19, a 2018 graduate of Hebron High School who now attends nursing school at Purdue University Northwest in Hammond.

For Marrie, art is a hobby, although her work will live on.

“It’s not like a project that you do and is over with,” she said. “It’s going to be here for years to come, so I wanted to make sure I got it right.”

Likewise, Grant Giacomin, 19, who graduated in the spring, said he assisted with research for the mural and with painting it.

Now a graphic design student at the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Giacomin said he had already decided on a career in the arts before he started working on the mural.

“I think it’s great. Everyone’s going to be able to look at it for years to come,” he said, adding how he can show the mural to family and friends. “It gives me a reason to come back to Hebron.”
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