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Atrium mural heads for Columbine

N. Carolina artist packs up 200 pounds of canvas forest for long journey to Denver

By Holly Kurtz
Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer


Imagine painting a coherent picture on a jigsaw puzzle, piece by piece.

Now imagine many of the pieces longer and wider than a person is tall.

That's exactly how North Carolina artist Virginia Wright-Frierson crafted the ceiling mural that will hang in Columbine High's new atrium when school reopens this fall.

Panel by panel. Piece by piece.

The work, more than 200 pounds, should be en route to Colorado as of today. It's so large it can only be viewed in full when laid out on a gymnasium floor. But eventually it will transform the space where the school's library once sat into an enchanted forest.

"I just wanted to do something to make it a beautiful space, transform it into a place where kids would want to go," Wright-Frierson said Monday.

She was moved to do the work free after her cousin, a teacher at the school, escaped the April 20, 1999, shootings. Wright-Frierson started work June 1, as soon as she got the go-ahead from HOPE, the group that raised some $3 million to build a new library and replace the old one with an atrium.

With help from her family, she sandwiched each panel in glassine, a tough packing material. Then she rolled the pieces over five cardboard tubes of the type used to mould cement pilings. After that, she bundled the tubes in layers of plastic and bubble wrap.

An art shipping company is to pick up the mural today; it is to arrive in Colorado on Aug. 2. Wright-Frierson plans to arrive, family in tow, on Aug. 4, and stay until Aug. 12 to assemble the artwork on sheet-rock panels.

She keeps waking up at night worrying the pieces won't match.

After all it's one thing to work a jigsaw puzzle that's already painted. It's quite another to paint the pattern when the pieces are scattered across your studio floor.

Contact Holly Kurtz at (303) 892-5082 or

July 25, 2000