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By Ed Moreth 

Students paint Plains


December 7, 2017

Ed Moreth

MOVIE CHRISTMAS – Senior Jessica Thompson touches up the face of the Heat Miser at the Dog Hill Bistro as part of Plains High School's annual Christmas window painting project.

Plains High School art teacher Kristen Cole sent her students out last week to "paint the town." But they didn't go out for a day of drinking and dancing, they spread out around the community to help deliver Christmas spirit by painting windows.

The Plains students spent last Thursday painting Christmas themes in the windows of more than 20 businesses from one end of town to the other, including the Clark Fork Valley Hospital Clinic and Plains City Hall.

"Our students are amazing. I feel fortunate to be able to work with these young adults. I enjoy hearing how much fun they have had for the day. Many asked if we could do this again this year," said Cole, who started the window painting tradition 23 years ago.

"This idea started when I began teaching with the desire to work with our community, help students provide a service, giving back to the town of Plains, as well as wanting to have the students' abilities showcased out in the public," said Cole, who went from window to window throughout the day checking on the students and giving tips.

Fifty-five students from freshman to senior class took part in the painting operation, which went on from about 9:30 a.m. to about 3:30 p.m. Nearly all of the businesses were repeat customers, said Cole, and many of the students have participated in the event in years past, including Jessica Thompson, a senior who has painted all four high school years. Thompson, 17, went outside the traditional box by painting five-foot renditions of the Heat Miser and Snow Miser from the 1974 animated television special "The Year Without a Santa Claus" at the Dog Hill Bistro. Cole said Thompson is one of her more talented artists.

Each year, Cole sends letters to the businesses asking if they'd like their front windows painted. Cole and the students discussed the theme ideas earlier in the week. Several went with subjects that tied to the business.

"A few days ahead of going we discuss theme ideas that can possibly tie the season into their business.  I also demonstrate on a framed piece of glass for them in class," said Cole, who added that they come up with new ideas each year. She also noted that the majority of the students this year had never done anything like this before. Some students worked on more than one business. Some of the businesses offered the students hot chocolate, coffee, cookies and even tips while they worked.

Ed Moreth

JOLLY OL' ELF – Freshmen Dustee Hayes (left) and Danielle Castonway work together at Gambles making a Santa Claus as part of Plains High School's annual Christmas window painting project.

"I thought it would be fun, especially because everyone would get to see the paintings," said sophomore Justice Olmos, a first-time window painter at the post office. Lindsay Laws said it got her more in the Christmas spirit, until she spilled green paint on the floor of Mountain West Clothing. The students used a tempera paint with liquid dish soap, a "secret ingredient," said Cole, and the art work washes off easily after the holidays. The work might be fun for the students, but they are graded, said Cole, who allows the students to grade their own work as well.

"I am always in awe of the wonderful comments I receive from business owners and the public in general," said Cole, who believes this annual project is unique to Plains and she appreciates the support from the businesses. "It's wonderful to see the joy it brings the artist as well as the viewer," said Cole. "I'm proud of these students for giving this a try."


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