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Mural artist brings Bruin back to life

Mural artist Kolleen Stafford works on painting of Bruin in front of high school gym. The Pilot/Arwyn Rice
The Brookings-Harbor High School Bruin mural is back – and bigger than ever.

The mural of a roaring grizzly bear, painted by Brookings muralist Kolleen Stafford, reappeared just in time for Homecoming this week.

The Homecoming connection wasn’t intentional, Stafford said, but a happy coincidence.

The mural is at least twice as large as the previous one, covering almost the entire height between the gymnasium doors and the roof.

“I don’t even know how big it is,” Stafford said. “When I was up there, all I could see was brown.”

The giant mural was a challenge, she said, because she had to work on a construction lift, donated by Bruce Bros. Construction, and she couldn’t step back to get perspective.

Stafford used a photo of a grizzly bear for reference on the mouth and other details, she said, but the rest took shape on its own.

The bear’s eye was especially important, she said.

“The eye says, ‘I’m going to win,’” Stafford said.

Student funds paid for the  mural, student government advisor Kristy Kleespies said.

“Kolleen gave us a good deal,” Kleespies said.

The bear is done, but there will be more to the mural.

The finished Bruin is larger than previous murals.

Still to be completed is the giant blue and gold B-R-U-I-N-S lettering, and a smaller sign with the Bruin motto, “Pride and Respect.”

The previous Bruin, created by Stafford in 2006, featured a bear ripping through the wall of the gymnasium.  The rampaging bruin was demolished in July 2009 when the district began removing rotten wood under it.

This time Stafford already had the paint and supplies she needed, plus four additional years of experience in painting murals.

The 2006 bear was one of her first murals.

“I can do it better now,” Stafford said after her first bruin was destroyed.

Stafford still has the plans for the original mural commissioned by the 2006 senior class, but a different bear was selected for the new mural.

Another Bruin pre-dated Stafford’s 2006 effort, a full-body view of a charging bear, which was in place as early as 1990.

That Bruin’s claim to fame was surviving an archery attack.

According to local legend, a Del Norte High School student once put an arrow between the bruin’s eyes, an impressive shot that pierced all the way through the board on which the mural was painted.

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