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Old school becoming a work of art

Post Independent/Kelley Cox Heidi Bascom is the artist painting murals inside the old school building on Main Street in New Castle. She is currently working on a section which features the building itself.
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NEW CASTLE – For Rosie Ferrin, the children she taught throughout her career live on in the vibrant murals that cover the walls in the old schoolhouse turned apartment building.”As soon as I started to teach, I got my interest in art,” she said. Her second-graders’ creativity inspired Ferrin to make an “art world” in the halls, gymnasium and stairwells of the school, she said.”I want to turn this whole building into a work of art,” she said.In 1973, the school at 151 Main St. closed down after a newer school opened in New Castle. Ferrin, who taught at the school for 10 years, bought the building in 1990. “My friends thought I was crazy,” she said. After its brief stint as a restaurant, Ferrin got a residential permit for the building and now rents out seven units, in addition to living there with her husband, Cleyo, in the summer.

Walking down the steps to the elementary wing, a visitor feels the eyes of elephants, zebras and parrots peering out from their painted forest. One of the artists of this jungle mural, Heidi Bascom of Rifle, has a special connection to her work: she once skipped through these same hallways as a second-grader in Ferrin’s class. New Castle resident JoJo Beasley also contributed to the jungle mural. Today, Bascom concentrated on getting the schoolhouse just the right shade for a mural in progress of a New Castle school and playground scene. “I never painted before in my life. I don’t even know what the brushes do,” Bascom said with a laugh, who now paints for Ferrin full time. ” But I love it. It’s one of those jobs you want to stay overtime.”Ferrin and her husband use the gymnasium, a few classrooms and the cafeteria of the school as their living space, dividing the rest of the property into units for affordable housing. She points out details of each room lovingly, from the giant bedroom gymnasium, with its quilted beds and a dazzling array of stuffed animals, to the classroom where she taught, still complete with the set of innovative study cubicles that attracted much local attention in the 1970s.”I’m happy every day when I wake up in the morning. This building gave me a reason to live,” she said. “Living in a world of art is beautiful.”

Across from the schoolhouse mural, Ferrin plans to have a three-dimensional natural scene with real rocks, trees and a waterfall. In the stairwell leading to the gymnasium, Bascom will create an aquarium mural brimming with sea life. But the ceilings of the 4,200-square foot gymnasium will hold the gem of this eclectic museum.Hundreds of painted red, white and blue roses will intertwine with columbines and other wildflowers of Colorado in honor of the country and New Castle, Ferrin said.”That’s why she calls me Michelangelo,” joked Bascom. Next year, when Ferrin’s artistic vision is complete, she will invite members of the community – by appointment – to witness her “labor of love,” she said. “We can leave this legacy to New Castle,” Ferrin said, her eyes welling with tears. “It’s in my name but it’s for the people.”



Already a local landmark to many with its colorful rose gardens and intricate brickwork, the art represents a reawakening for a once drab, abandoned school, Ferrin said. “This building went from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan,” she said.Contact Christine Dell’Amore: 945-8515, ext. 535cdellamore@postindependent.com


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