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By DANELLE LANDIS
Daily News Staff Writer
More than 48 fifth- and sixth-grade students from the Tongass School of Arts and Sciences jostled into the courtyard at Dock and Main Street on Wednesday, abuzz with anticipation. They were waiting to hear which one of them would win the honor of naming the new sea life mural painted by artist Ricardo Burquez on the fence that wraps around the courtyard.
Teachers shushed the young crowd as Burquez grinned and thanked them for coming. The artist stood next to the open fence gate, brought to life by his painting of a salmon splashing corner-to-corner, its large glass eye glinting in the misty afternoon light. He read the quote he’d painted in white on the lower right corner, beneath the huge salmon’s jaw.
“To the children of the world global art exchange,” he read.
Printed underneath the quote is, “Tijuana - Ketchikan,” harkening to Burquez’ original Mexican home and heritage.
Then came the moment the students were waiting for. The name of the sprawling mural, lively with seals, salmon and starfish would be: “Tireless Tide.”
The students clapped, hopped and hooted their approval, and nudged the winner, fifth-grader Madysin Heck, forward to receive her kudos. Madysin made her way to Burquez to pose for pictures, where they grinned side-by-side.
After the crowd watched, in hushed fascination, as Burquez painted the new title onto the dark boards of the gate, they lined up to feast on platters of healthy snacks provided by Tatsuda’s IGA.
Madysin was carefully rolling a piece of ham at a small picnic table as she explained how she came up with the artwork’s new name.
“I just thought about the sea, and since it has a powerful current, it makes a powerful fish,” she said.
She added that it wasn’t the only title that came to her.
“I had to think about a ton of ideas,” she added.
She also explained that this wasn’t her first time exploring with words. She said she likes to write stories when she’s bored, mostly about her family or about historical characters, especially George Washington, who is her favorite. Regardless, she said, math is her favorite school subject.
Jacob Mensurian, owner of the property, said he’s known Burquez for years, and was looking for a way to make the space more enjoyable. He’d initially wanted to create a market in the courtyard area, but the idea fell through.
So, he said he decided to commission Burquez to paint the mural, with the thought that, “if we’re not making money, then let’s enjoy it.”
The mural has been in process for about two and a half months, Burquez said, and he has plans to add more animals, including an octopus and more clams and starfish. He said he also has plans to paint more scenes on the inside of the fence.
Burquez said he was inspired to create the naming contest for local children when he saw how many people were bringing their kids to look at the mural, and thought it would be excellent to dedicate the mural to the children of the world. He approached the staff at Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities about how to make the contest happen.
“It was the best idea I’ve ever had,” Burquez concluded.