As plows cleared the roads of York County after Saturday's snow storm, they also showed off the art work of student artists in the county. Seven plows belonging to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles featured the painted designs of high school students from across York County high, providing a splash of color to a landscape whitewashed by snow.
Ariadna Perez, a freshman at Bruton High School, said that over the weekend and the three school days canceled because of snow, she kept an eye out for the plow she helped paint. "I asked my mom to pull over when I thought I saw it, but it was a different plow," Perez said with a laugh. Even though she never saw Bruton's plow on the road, she said she was glad to participate in the project, which represented her school in a different way than normal.
The Bruton plow was painted by nine students who are part of Bruton's Art Club. Club president Genesis Llanos, a senior, said the project presented challenges the young artists were unaccustomed to facing.
To start, they used a more industrial, heavy-duty paint to coat the metal plows and mineral solvents to clean their brushes. Llanos said the solvents were potentially harmful if it got on skin, so they had to be careful working with it. She and Perez both said they still had some clothes damaged by the material.
The plow's shape was also a challenge — not only was it a large piece of equipment, it was curved, almost like the crest of a wave. Llanos said they walked away from the project with sore backs and paint in their hair some days because they would hunch under the plow and paint above them.
On top of working with a new medium and an oddly shaped canvas, the club also had to brave the elements, painting outdoors on windy, rainy days.
The final result was a Panther, the Bruton High School mascot, surfing next to a tropical island — a touch of summer to contrast the plows wintry function. "We thought it'd be kind of funny to do that," Llanos said.
Perez said the challenge of painting made the project more fun, and Llanos added that the club was excited to take part in the project from the beginning. "It was cool because the plows are big and useful and people would get to see them," she said.
The club designed and painted the plow over the course of five hourlong meeting periods after school. The students started in November and finished in January, just before snowy forecasts started appearing. Llanos said the time spent painting the plow provided club members a good chance to get to know one another and work as a team. Llanos also got to practice some leadership skills, managing the project alongside the club's faculty sponsor Helen Lowery.
"I had to make sure everyone was on task and not goofing off too much," Llanos said. "We always talked and had fun, but we stayed on task." She said every person in the club had a specific job to do.
Going into their project, Llanos said they knew their work would be put to use and possibly damaged, but they were okay with that and glad to take on the challenge. "It's probably scratched up and destroyed, but it was a cool experience," she said.
VDOT spokeswoman Paula Miller said school districts throughout Virginia participated in the plow painting program, which was introduced in 2016. Miller said VDOT has heard positive responses from people who have seen the plows and inquired about them after this week's snow clearing.
She said the schools in York have also reached out in hopes of participating in the program again next winter.
Reyes can be reached by phone at 757-247-4692.