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By Andi Bourne

Inspiring Others Because He Was Inspired


Nathan Bourne, Pathfinder

Seeley-Swan High School senior Gavin Mercado painted a mural on the east wall of the Seeley Lake Elementary gymnasium as a thank you to everyone who has inspired him and hopes to inspire others.

SEELEY LAKE – The north wall in the Seeley Lake Elementary gymnasium now pays tribute to the Eagles athletes. Seeley-Swan High School senior Gavin Mercado put his artistic ability to the test painting an mural nearly the height of the wall as a thank you to all those who have made him who he is and to help inspire others.

Mercado has always enjoyed art using pencil, colored pencil and markers.

"I first started getting into graffiti around sixth grade and just kept working at it and bettering myself at it throughout the years," wrote Mercado in an email.

Mercado was in junior high when he helped TJ Warnecke paint the Seeley Lake mural on the hallway from the junior high wing to the cafeteria. The project was completed during the school year.

Mercado, who has played football, basketball and track since elementary, said that during all his years playing in the gym and watching his younger siblings play, the main wall that the stands face has been blank.

"I figured it needed something to it," wrote Mercado.

He approached SLE Superintendent Chris Stout with the idea to graffiti the wall as a way to say thank you. Mercado showed him a basic sketch and Stout approved it.

"He's really into art and graffiti art. I know he has an interest to pursue this further," said Stout.

"The whole thing in general is really special and significant to me, the intent was to inspire, for kids to look up and strive to be that," wrote Mercado.

The mural includes a football player and basketball player with SLE Eagles in between.

The football player is huge and bulky and the basketball player is muscular and lanky. This was a challenge for Mercado. Since he did it freehand, he said it was difficult to make them proportionate.

"Both are portrayed as legends so no matter your size or sport, give it your all and you'll come out a champion," wrote Mercado.

This was Mercado's first large- scale project. He just recently started painting so that added to the challenge.

"I've spent countless hours doing it, sometimes being there until 1-3 in the morning," wrote Mercado.

SLE provided the paint and Rent-All donated the scaffolding. Mercado donated all of his time and artistic ability for the project. Mercado said a few friends came in and helped including Lulu Bohlman, Eliana Robinette, Hunter Mincey and his younger brothers Owen and Sean.

After they were painted, Mercado was asked to remove certain elements of the mural. This included Stout's name.

"One thing I've learned and I'll go into life with is 'no good deed goes unpunished'," wrote Mercado. "There were quite a few complaints about the art and I'm sure there will be more, although, I am proud of what I've done and am disappointed in some of the things I had to take down."

Stout said he told Mercado, while he appreciated the sentiment including his name in the center of the mural, it was not appropriate for the space.

"While artists should be allowed artistic freedom, they surrender some of that freedom in a public space," said Stout.

Nathan Bourne, Pathfinder

Gavin Mercado donated his time and artistic ability painting a new mural in the SLE gymnasium. SLE provided the paint and Rent-All donated the scaffolding. Mercado spent countless hours painting, sometimes until 1-3 a.m. to complete it before graduation.

Stout said another concern was that it does not depict a female athlete. Since the mural does not degrade or reflect poorly on female athletes, Stout did not request Mercado add one in or change one of the existing athletes.

"There are plenty of opportunities to recognize female athletes in the future. Maybe someone else will want to do another mural or we can add to this one," said Stout.

Regardless of the criticism, Mercado felt it was an amazing opportunity to share his art and to inspire others.

"This is what we are here for. If we are not giving kids these opportunities then what kind of an education are we really offering?" said Stout. "I think it is really cool that even though the high school and elementary are two separate districts, students still feel connected enough to their elementary school to come back and do something like this."

"I never really thought anything about my art – just that I picked up the pencil and markers as a release," wrote Mercado. "Little did I know it would be one of my legacies."


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