Milford Senior High School student Ann McGehrin is working on one last school project. But, she hopes this one gets her more than a good grade.

Like other high school seniors, Ann McGehrin is already thinking about life after graduation. She's looking at her college options and counting the days for the independence that life after high school seems to hold.

But, first, she's got one more project that she wants to complete first: a large, uplifting mural that students can point to for school pride.

The idea came to her when she started back to school this year and new construction created a gloriously big, blank, white wall.

So, she went to her art teacher with an idea: "Can I create a mural for the school?"

The art teacher presented the question to the principal and they told McGehrin to submit some ideas.

"I came up with two," McGehrin said. "One was more inspirational with outstretched palms and a big globe and the other was more about school pride. Of course, school pride won out."

First the proposal had to go up the administrative chain but once the superintendent signed off and the budgeting was approved, McGehrin was officially commissioned to start painting. She's been working on it for about a month now but she put down her paint brushes this week to talk to the Beacon about the mural, her internship with local artist Anne Jenkins and what she's learned in the process.

Q So, what was your inspiration for the mural? Why did you want to do this?

A I really want to leave my mark. You don't really get that kind of opportunity that often. But, when I saw that blank wall, it just looked like the perfect chance to leave a legacy of art behind. I've loved my art classes here but I started thinking ahead, too, and I thought this would be something that would look good on my resume as well.

Q It's a really big project. How long have you been working on it?

A Well, I started about a month ago, maybe longer. And, I hope to have most of it completely by the time I leave next week for Europe. First, I had to get a projector to help me trace my drawing onto the wall. I wanted the sun to be perfectly centered and everything to be spaced out. Then, I started painting.

Q But, this isn't your only project, right? You're also working with Anne Jenkins on the Art of the Riverwalk Tour project. What are you getting to do with that?

A Yes. It's such an amazing opportunity. We're painting these large replicas of the yacht Augusta. When I was accepted as one of the high school interns, my teacher warned me that I might just be cleaning brushes or doing side work. But, right when I got in there, Anne asked me if I was good at birds and had me start sketching like 10 birds one of the boats. Then, the next day, I was painting. She's been letting me have a lot of practical experience. She didn't feel like me just watching her would be a good learning experience so she got me involved right away. And, I'm getting to do a lot. I'm doing the birds and the shore line. She's even putting my name on it. I didn't expect that at all. It's more official and bigger than I ever expected.

Q What have you learned with her? Anything that you can bring back to your own mural here?

A She's just fabulous to work with. I'm more uptight about my work. I'm a perfectionist and I see every little mistake. She's not like that, though. The way she works, she puts a lot of expression into her stuff and she pours a lot of emotion into her. It's unlike me. I can be so detached, especially when I'm doing something for somebody else. It's why I can see every flaw. But, she doesn't see her work like that. She looks at the whole thing. And, something that I might see as a flaw, she loves and she thinks it just makes the whole piece better. I hear her say, 'oops' all the time. But, she doesn't dwell on. She just accepts it and moves on. It's not the end of the world and she sees the beauty in it. I want to be like that more.

Q What else have you learned?

A I have learned how to paint while someone is looking at me. Before, that would be really intimidating but I've had to work through that. I've also learned that big projects are hard and procrastinating doesn't help. And, I've learned to have more confidence in myself. High school isn't always easy. But, people have been coming up to me and telling me how good the mural is so at some point, you have to start believing it. That's been the biggest thing, I think. I think I'm getting there.

Q What do you hope future students see when they look at the mural?

A I hope it brings more happiness to the school. I made the mural bright and cheerful so that when people look at it, there won't be any reason to be depressed or anything. I also hope they'll be inspired and maybe think about art and art classes a little more. My art classes have meant the world to me. I've taken eight classes during my high school experience and I've loved every single one of them. I don't think I could have gotten through a whole day of school without my art classes. It's a release for me. There's so much pressure in high school. But, I think it's good that I had classes where I didn't feel so much pressure but I was still learning and still growing. Every student should have that.