Despite the windy, raining spring weather, a rough painting surface and scrambling to find time between school, work, and activities, a select group of seniors manage to paint giant pieces of art while preparing to graduate high school. Since 1991, a student or student-team has designed a mural for the walls of each MasterLube location in Billings. Once a design is selected, a team composed of student artists, friends, parents and volunteers paint the pieces, which vary in size up to about 18 feet tall. The idea behind each school painting a mural on a MasterLube location came about through the Grad Day fundraising event held each year in May to raise money towards the schools’ all-night, alcohol-free graduation party. Each Billings high school and Laurel high school “adopts” one of the five locations during the event.
Each school has a different procedure for choosing its design. Some schools hold internal contests among the art department students while others collaborate on ideas and work together as a team to create their project. School teams also obtain paint donations and supplies from area businesses. The Paint Center in Billings has been donating paint for at least twelve years. “We try to do what we can to help the kids in the community,” says owner Pam Kuntz, “We believe that the kids are the future of the community and it’s such a fun thing to be involved in.” As the years went by, Craig Godfrey, president of MasterLube, realized that the student’s artwork was so excellent that he wanted to find a way to showcase the projects to more of the community. “Sometimes it seemed like people in the Heights might not make it to the West End and vice versa,” he explained, “I felt like there was just so much talent that we needed to find a way for more people to see it.” Starting in 2008, Godfrey decided to incorporate a contest element to the painting projects called “The War of the Walls.” “It’s just a fun way to show the community all the designs,” he says. Voting takes place on MasterLube’s Facebook page once the murals are completed.