SLC students, faculty help create Two Rivers Pet Nirvana Mural

Posted On September 08, 2015

Silver Lake College students and faculty helped create an eye-catching mural in response to a request from a Two Rivers business owner who was inspired by recent murals popping up around Manitowoc.

The work depicts a gray elephant on a colorful abstract background sending a spray of water over its head with its trunk.

Shellie L. Jacquart wanted a mural to liven up Pet Nirvana, her holistic pet-care store, so she contacted Erin LaBonte, Silver Lake College Assistant Professor of Art and Art Department Co-chair. They met last spring about the possibility of painting a mural on the side of the business at 1705 East St.

 After meeting Jacquart at the location and photographing the wall, LaBonte sent out a “call for artists” to Silver Lake College art students describing the project and asking for mural design submissions. 

She then compiled the submissions and began working with the interested students on a final design. Tanya Bouche, a senior business major with an interest in the fine arts and Cassie Hebert and Samantha Deeley, both studio art graduates of Silver Lake College who are currently pursuing their education degrees, began collaboration with LaBonte on a final design of the mural. 

“Each student brought a unique skill set to the project.  A lot of people participated in the painting of the mural, but Sam, Cassie, Tanya, and I were the leaders in the project.” LaBonte said.

Family members, friends, Silver Lake College students, and alumni also participated in the painting process. 

Jacquart didn’t want to limit the creative expression of the artists and left it up to the artists to create a unique design for the sidewall of her establishment.

“We hope people will drive or walk by, see what Erin and her team have created and appreciate the importance of art in the community.  Art should be displayed for everyone to enjoy,” she said. 

“The elephant idea and designs were first introduced to the group by Tanya. Initially, we had a lot of different ideas and sketches. I brought them to Shellie and we decided to move forward with the elephant. I then added the concept of the splash,” LaBonte said.

“Sam drew the elephant, and Cassie put everything together in a final design in Photoshop. We wanted it to be upbeat and fun. We also thought of the elephant as kind of a spirit animal — the owner felt a specific connection to the elephant and the pattern in the background somewhat resembles lotus flowers — which is a powerful symbol for lots of cultures, representing things like unity, spiritual awakening, purity,” LaBonte said. “It seemed appropriate for a holistic pet store named Pet Nirvana.”

The group also wanted to take advantage of the corner location. The mural surrounds the back door of the business, which faces the street and is visible to passing motorists and pedestrians.

Students began designing the mural in mid-May and began painting in late July.  The mural was completed in late August. 

“Through family time and having the chance to make more friends, I think this mural project has opened my eyes to a whole new world of art,” Bouche said.

“Erin LaBonte and her team are amazing to work with their talent is inspiring,” Jacquart said.

Participants in painting included Bouche’s children, Dakota Jandron, Merissa O’Connell and Tylor Bouche; Hebert’s son, Lincoln Hebert; LaBonte’s sister, Rachelle LaBonte; recent art graduate Randy Gruenweller; and SLC student Jared Koch and his sister, Samara Koch.

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