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By Ed Moreth 

Local artist donates painting to Plains school


March 26, 2020

Ed Moreth

NEW HORSE HOME – Plains School Superintendent Thom Chisholm (left) accepts a painting called "Untamed" from artist Dave Williams.

The president of Joint Operation Mariposa presented a painting to Plains Elementary School last week to replace one that the school's National Honor Society donated recently to the Veterans Administration. One hundred and sixty-eight kids from kindergarten to fourth grade and about a dozen teachers and staff gathered outside the school Thursday afternoon for the unveiling of "Untamed," the painting of a orange and black horse - the school colors - by Dave Williams, president and founder of Joint Operation Mariposa. Helping with the unveiling ceremony were Izzy Hardy of the fourth grade, Chloe Monselet of the first grade, and Danielle Castonguay, a high school junior who drew the outline for the horse in the painting, which shows a variety of black, yellow, white, green, brown, blue, and three different shades of orange.

Williams used Castonguay's line drawing as a model for the horse painting. He believes her drawing will be displayed along with the painting at the school. It was Hardy and Monselet that convinced Williams to do some kind of special art for the elementary school, since he had given a painting to the high school, has painted with some of the high school art students and has done some large art projects with the high school. The National Honor Society had a blue horse painting that Williams created. The group donated the blue horse framed painting to the VA in Helena because the painting symbolized the disabled veteran. In turn, Williams wanted give the elementary school a permanent home for a horse painting. 

Hardy and Monselet periodically visited Williams at his home to check on the painting progress. "Most of the time we could tell he worked really hard, but sometimes we would catch him playing video games or napping. So, we would wake him up or get him off of his game and get him back to work," said Monselet at the ceremony, where she and Hardy gave speeches." Sometimes we had to even spend the night to make sure everything was the way we wanted it and as you can see all of our hard work paid off because the painting is right there," she added shortly prior to the unveiling.

Williams was the creator of the 2018 "Guardians of the Herd" display in Plains, which had over 1,000 feet of painted horses. The Plains High School National Honor Society volunteered to help take the herd display down when it was over and also found a home at the VA for the blue horse. "Now for finding the new home I promised that I would paint something that would represent all of them and return it to the school as a thank you," said Williams, an artist for more than 25 years.

Hardy reiterated Williams' sentiment of gratitude to the school for finding a home for the blue horse. "You see, after it was displayed in town it was given to all of us to decide where its final home would be, but that was only half of the promise. The other half of that promise is why we are here today. As a thank you for finding the blue horse a new home, he painted something for all of us," said Hardy, who added that she was happy that Williams wasn't covered in paint at the ceremony, but wearing a "nice shirt and jacket."

Once Williams and Castonguay unveiled the 48-by-48-inch framed painting, it was presented to Superintendent Thom Chisholm, who said it will be displayed in the elementary school hallway of the K-4 building. Williams told the kids that he named it "Untamable" because of the unbroken and free spirit of both wild horses and the students. "It's that little bit of wild that is left in all of us," he said. Castonguay, 17, and Williams both signed the acrylic painting. Williams worked on the painting over a period of about a week and a half and finished it three days before the presentation. 

"Plains Elementary School is very excited about being a recipient of the painting 'Untamable.' The connection brought about by its creation demonstrates the strength of small town communities," said Chisholm. "The students that helped in its creation, design, and completion have a strong sense of ownership and pride in their school.  They will be reminded of this each day as they pass by the painting as they travel to and from recess. Joint Operation Mariposa and its leadership have done a great job on uniting everyone on a fun filled and lasting project," he said. 

After the ceremony, the students had the opportunity to get a close up look at the painting as they filed back to class. Williams also painted a green horse, symbolizing Green Star families that have been impacted by veteran suicides. Plans are for volunteers to walk the painting from Washington state to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., including a stretch through Plains. Williams wants to start the journey in August and will be looking for volunteers to walk the painting at one-mile intervals. Williams hopes the painting will end up in the Smithsonian Institute. 


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