Mountain School senior projects cover many interests
VAIL, Colorado – Riley Ebel may pursue a business degree. But Rayla Kundolf hopes she studies at least a little bit of the business of art.
Ebel, who graduated from Vail Mountain School Friday, used Kundolf’s Masters Gallery in Vail Village for her senior project, “It’s Simple: An Exploration of Complexity Within Simplicity.” The project consisted of three large paintings of single objects – a sea shell, a ski and a teddy bear. But those seemingly simple objects were presented on four-by-six-foot canvasses, and showed a level of maturity beyond Ebel’s 17 years.
“We’re putting her in a room with pieces by a vetted artist, and her work holds up,” Kundolf said.
The paintings also show the time given to students for their projects – the entire third trimester of their final year, a time when “senioritis” has gripped a lot of youngsters about to finish high school.
But at Vail Mountain School, 19 of this year’s 21 graduates did projects ranging from helping a local surgeon with an article for a medical journal to designing a home that, if built, would achieve LEED Platinum status – the highest achievment in green building.
Christian Julin designed that home with help from Mike Cuthbertson of R.A. Nelson and Associates. The two families have known each other for years, and Cuthbertson said he was happy to help Julin with the work.
“He took on a phenomenal workload,” Cuthbertson said of Julin. “It really reaffirmed what a hard worker I thought he was.”
Mountain school college counselor Marisa Ferrara said all the senior projects involved lots of work, work more likely associated with upper-level college projects in many cases.
Students work with an advisory board at the school, as well as with mentors from the community. Projects need to be approved before work starts, and students need to defend their work before their final presentations.
“It helps them develop speaking skills, the ability to work independently and meet deadlines,” Ferrara said.
And sometimes the school benefits.
John McKenna re-designed the sound system at the school’s theater for his project. McKenna plans to attend Penn State University this fall and will major in sound design. He’s worked with local company THD productions on events including the Bravo! music festival and the Teva Mountain Games.
“I picked my project as a logical progression to my study of theater tech and sound,” McKenna wrote in an email. “I had done lots of concerts but never designed a system and I figured that senior project would be a good way to ease into speaker system design.”
McKenna and THD owner Todd Howe soon found a serious problem with the existing sound system, since different parts of the theater could be twice as loud as others.
The problem was solved, and the school’s theater is the better for it.
In the Village last Monday, Ebel explained her approach to her paintings to a small crowd of classmates, faculty friends and relatives. Asked if she plans to sell any, Kundolf encouraged her, adding that she needs to sign her work, at least somewhere.
“Go ahead and get a business degree, but please keep painting,” Kundolf said.
That seems to be a given. Although she’s only been painting since her sophomore year, Ebel said this project really opened her head and heart to art.
“I found I have a deeper passion for painting,” Ebel said. “I used to paint just to paint, but this really solidified some of my ideas.”