Two art education students from University of Wisconsin-Stout have completed a large-scale art installation at Downsville School — and in the process kept thousands of bottle caps out of landfills.

Abby Henderson, of Eau Claire, and Grace Rogers, of Clear Lake, who are part of Arts Integration Menomonie, began working on the project in February. They spent about 45 hours on the mural, which is seven feet high and 14 feet wide.

With help from family and friends in the final stages, the project was completed in the spring.

The mural is in the style of artist Chuck Close and encompasses the theme of sustainability, utilizing approximately 7,000 recycled bottle caps.

Collaborative effort

“This entire mural would not have been possible without help from the Downsville elementary staff and students. We really have to thank all of the parents, friends and families who saved up thousands of bottle caps and took the time to help us complete the mural,” Henderson said.

“It is incredible to see the entire community come together to create this large scale piece that will be displayed and enjoyed by many for years to come,” she added.

Rogers said that the “support of the community to collect the plastic bottle caps was an awesome learning experience. We worked with classroom teachers so almost every student got to create a shape within the mural. Hearing the students talk about their shapes and the mural in general is really rewarding.”

A school vote was held, and the design was chosen by the Downsville students. The mural is in the hallway across from the front doors of the school.

“We’re really happy with how it turned out,” Rogers said. “Participating in the AIM PAINT (Program for Arts Integration for New Teachers) program has been another wonderful opportunity provided by the UW-Stout art education program. It is not the norm to be able to add a collaborative mural project to your resume before graduation, and through AIM’s support Abby and I are able to do that.”

PAINT provides paid internships, like the mural project, to UW-Stout students who are going into teaching professions, said AIM Executive Director Tami Weiss, an assistant professor at UW-Stout.

“These opportunities allow for many hands-on teaching and learning experiences through the arts, which end up being a win-win for preservice teachers and the students in the schools,” Weiss said.

AIM is a grant-funded collaborative program involving UW-Stout, the Menomonie school district and the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts. For more information, go to

Two other large-scale art installations were undertaken by AIM this spring, a mosaic mural in the lunchroom at Wakanda School and a library mural, created by Weiss, at River Heights School.

For more information about UW-Stout’s art education program, go to

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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