CITRUS PARK — It took eight years, more than 50 students, a blank wall and a bunch of paint to finish what the Sickles High School art club plans to show off tonight: one big mural.
At 6 p.m., art teacher Eric Milan will officially unveil the painting, which depicts the fine arts. Milan, who has taught art and sponsored the club since Sickles opened in 1997, said the mural was his idea. But it was the students — all the ones to join the art club since 2001 — who made the idea reality, he said.
Over the years, the first set of students did research. Then others created sketches. Later, Milan ordered eight 4- by 8-foot cement board panels, usually used for exterior siding on houses, for students to paint.
Among the first of the painters was Luis Gonzalez.
"We drew it out and laid down the first coat," said Gonzalez, the 18-year-old former art club president, who graduated from Sickles in 2008 and studies graphic design at Flagler College in St. Augustine. "It feels really great being able to say you had a part in a masterpiece."
Jason McDade, a junior at Sickles, agreed.
"Finally seeing it finished and up on the wall was a pretty big feeling of accomplishment," said McDade, 17, who is the art club's current president.
He and other current art club members put the finishing touches on the project, built a frame and mounted the mural on the wall in the school's auditorium. Without its frame, the finished piece is 8 feet tall and 32 feet wide. Depictions in the piece morph from dance to theater to music, then to visual arts.
It is more, Gonzalez said, than just a decoration.
"When I was in high school, the arts program was never talked about. No one really appreciated it," he said. "But I feel that this will bring to light the talent at Sickles High School. I guess kids would look at it and say, 'Wow, those are the artists that go to Sickles.' "
Gonzalez, who plans to be at the mural's unveiling with his girlfriend and his family tonight, can't wait to see it. When he began working on it during high school, he said, it was all he talked about for weeks.
Now, Milan said, the work is all the administration talks about once they've gotten a peek.
"We just finished it and everybody keeps asking me what we're going to do on the other blank wall," he said. "That's for next year."
Arleen Spenceley can be reached at (813) 269-5301 or aspenceley @sptimes.com.