“You gotta see this.”

That should be the headline for this story about a massive mural painted onto a wall at the Augusta school gym recently.

A couple of weeks back Megan Genther, who teaches art at Augusta School, sent an email to the Sun Times that she had some “Augusta, MT news to share.” Attached were some photos.

When I saw the photos, I knew we would need a bigger photo. Maybe a bigger front page.

The mural, as you can see in the photo above, dwarfs Mrs. Genther and her Augusta Art Program students.

According to Mrs. Genther, “Haystack Butte is an iconic landmark of our town nestled in the rocky mountain front just outside of Augusta.  The Artist captured the rugged beauty of this mountain perfectly. It is a truly accurate rendition of what Haystack Butte looks like in the spring when all the bright yellow sunflowers are in full bloom.  The work has great texture and depth.”

When I visited the school last Wednesday the lights were out in the gym, but even in the dark I couldn’t miss the work.

What is truly striking is the reality of the mural, and the detail. Mrs. Genther and the artists: senior Bradi Hill, senior Jae Allen, and junior Rylee Shalz told the Sun Times that they used a reference photo to guide them. But the challenge was maintaining the perspective of the mural as they worked on it.

According to Mrs. Genther, the work, which almost reaches the ceiling, was so tall that a scissor-lift was used to raise the students into position as they worked. The problem was that when in the air, the artists were too close to the mural and were unable to stand back and assess their progress.

A thoroughly modern approach was applied to accurately paint the ancient butte: they used cellphone cameras and texting.

As the work progressed, one of the artists would stay on the gym floor and when needed would shoot a wide shot of the progress on their cell phone then text the image to their colleague that was up in the air on the lift.

The cell phone photo idea worked. From across the large gym the mural grabs your eye, but as you walk closer – even standing at arm’s length from the wall and looking up, taking the entire work in – the painting is amazing in detail and color.

Of course, with the Augusta team – the “Elks” – there needed to be a reference to the Augusta Elks. For that, the team of artists and their teacher reached out to the local U.S. Forest Service office, asking for the “best photo they had of an Elk ‘shed’.”

As they stand at the mural, the students’ pride in their work, their community and their school is evident.

When asked if the Augusta community has seen the mural, all three students say that local residents have visited the school to check it out, and all have made positive comments. Many locals will tell stories of a hunt or hike in sight of Haystack Butte when the visit, and several have pointed out features, such as the Indian Face, that can be seen when Haystack Butte is viewed at the right angle and in the right light. Artist Jae Allen told the Sun Times that she works at the Manix store in Augusta and the mural is a popular topic of discussion in the community.

Mrs. Genther told the Sun Times via her original email that there will be a ceremony to recognize the artists with a plaque at an upcoming home volleyball game. All three students are starting varsity players.

This story was originally posted at fairfieldsuntimes.com