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Baraboo High School student and mural contest winner 'proud' of local history
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Baraboo High School student and mural contest winner 'proud' of local history

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Isabella Martinez’s winning mural design is a love letter in pictures.

The Baraboo Public Art Association chose the Baraboo High School junior’s design to fill a narrow concrete wall in the public parking lot on the south side of the Baraboo Civic Center.

Its seven panels follow the Baraboo River and the student’s longstanding appreciation of her hometown.

“There’s so much here if you just look for it,” Martinez said.

BPAA issued the contest to local youth in November, selecting “Following the Baraboo River” by Martinez from a pool of 11 young artists and awarding her $250. It will be painted by local youths this summer.

Her mural will travel 56 feet across aluminum composite panels that are 4 feet high, starting with the fox that looks down at the river from the rocks above it. Each panel employs fall colors — Martinez’s favorite season — and captures her fascination with local history and science.

“We obviously have a lot of circus history and I still remember my middle school enrichment class when we documented the Ringling Brothers and what they did,” Martinez said. “But we also had field trips that focused on geology and I remember my middle school science teacher talking about how in prehistoric times, there were the ‘Baraboo Islands’ and we were surrounded by water.”

The 16-year-old remembers her elementary field trips to the International Crane Foundation, too, where the students learn about the endangered Whooping Crane species and the hard work that goes into conservation locally. Her favorite panel — the seventh and final panel in the series — features a crane in a field and represents rural Baraboo.

“(Those trips) really made an impact on me,” Martinez said. “They made me proud of the local history.”

Her other panel subjects include a Baraboo bridge, birds sitting atop a park bench alongside the river, fish underwater, a squirrel and deer.

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“She captured all the animal forms in a way that anyone can figure out from a distance what they are,” said BPAA board member Judy Spring. “You can tell she paid attention to our guidelines because it’s such a challenging shape to fill. Her design can easily be completed by young people.”

Martinez is the vice president of her school’s art club and a member since her freshman year. She plans to pursue a career in art, either as a teacher or storyboard artist who plans out the shots in animated movies.

“It’s interesting and really cool to think that in five to 10 years from now I could visit the mural and find my little initials,” Martinez said of winning the contest.

Throughout her school years, it’s been easy for Martinez to imagine pursuing a career in the arts due to all of the opportunities that exist locally for artists, she said. The past two Octobers, Martinez has taken part in the Fall Art Tour that bring students into the homes and studios of local artists in Mineral Point, Spring Green, Dodgeville and Baraboo.

She has always appreciated the art offered by merchants during Baraboo’s Fair on the Square events in May and October and Martinez recently found herself “amazed” by the volume of artwork she saw during the most recent event called “Art June.” Art June, hosted by Sauk County Art Association, showcases local artists on the Saturday before Father’s Day, each year.

“Everybody knows there are so many artists in places like New York and LA, but (these events) showed me that there are a lot of them here, too,” Martinez said.

The project is intended to liven up an area that’s considered to be an “eyesore” by many of the local merchants in the area, Spring and others had said in November. The area, as of now, tends to attract frequent graffiti.

Up to 100 vehicles per weekday use the parking lot where the mural will be installed, said Mike Hardy, the city’s director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.

The next step for BPAA’s mural project is to raise $1,500 for materials and supplies, Spring said. BPAA will refine and enlarge the design and hope to begin painting by mid-March.

BPAA intends to install the mural by the end of August.

For more information about the project, visit the Baraboo Public Art Association’s Facebook page.

Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau or contact him at 608-695-4956.

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