Armed with grants from the district’s Education Foundation, Permian High School art teacher Luis Trejo Fuentes plans to create a pottery program, a botanical garden that could become a community attraction and an art gallery.

In the works for a while, the Botanical Garden has been delayed by nature and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We got a grant for this place, but because of the pandemic the grant money has to be frozen so that won’t be here until July. So, it’s been two years trying to get this place going. I’m glad that we finally got the chance to do this,” Trejo Fuentes said.

A pond is shown Tuesday, June 22, 2021, at the Permian High garden. The Permian High art department is creating an outdoor garden and revamping the art program as well. (Michael Bauer|Odessa American)

Two top items of business are to restore the garden and fix the fountain.

“… We want to turn this into an outdoor art gallery and event space. Two years ago, we were in talks with Randy Ham of Odessa Arts. We thought it’d be a cool idea to bring in artists from all over the country so they can show their work here alongside work from students. We want to make this place an educational space, as well as a place where they can enjoy art and nature. … We’re still going to be planting local plants and trees and flowers. We’re going to put art in here as well as sculptures, student work sculptures from actual artists. We want this place to continually be evolving and growing. So for example, we want to invite mosaic artists so along these paths here, we want to every couple of years or so every year, we want artists take over a small section of the path, do some mosaic work, and then just keep adding on year after year, more and more work bringing more sculptures. We just really want this place to continually be evolving and changing,” Trejo Fuentes said.

A sign is on display Tuesday, June 22, 2021, at the garden at Permian High School. (Michael Bauer|Odessa American)

He added that the garden area hadn’t really been used and they weren’t even allowed inside for a long time.

“But we really want the displays to … serve the community. So around Christmas time we want to really make this place look beautiful. This place should be like in a really bright and enchanting forest of lights at Christmastime. (At) Halloween time, we want to do some Halloween stuff here, make it a spooky space for the kids to come and enjoy. We really want this place to serve the community. In the summer, we want to have summer workshops where kids can come in, do some pottery, do some sidewalk chalk. (We) really want this to be something for everybody. We really want to make this a tourist attraction; put it on the map of things to do in Odessa; things to do and see.”

Permian graduate Isaiah Mendoza works in the garden Tuesday, June 22, 2021, at Permian High. (Michael Bauer|Odessa American)

He added that he has had volunteers help clean up and members of CAT Magazine have been really helpful. CAT stands for Community of Artistic Teens.

With one of the grants for $2,000, Trejo Fuentes said they would order about 200 feet of string lights and 150 path lights to brighten the space because it gets dark in the fall and winter. The grant also covers gardening equipment they will need such as gloves, tools and bird seed.

Art teachers Cheryl Stribling and Pam Burkhalter are helping Trejo Fuentes.

Burkhalter used to own a fish store, so she knows about ponds and Stribling used to be a botanist, he said.

“She’s … going to be helping out in terms of the kind of plants that we need and the kind of equipment we’re going to need for all this,” Trejo Fuentes said.

Separately, the Education Foundation and the fine arts department combined for a $7,000 grant for pottery wheels to start a pottery program at PHS.

It will also help the school more fully participate in Empty Bowls for example. The yearly Empty Bowls event raises money for the West Texas Food Bank.

Cactus is shown Tuesday, June 22, 2021, at the Permian High garden. The Permian High art department is creating an outdoor garden and revamping the art program as well. (Michael Bauer|Odessa American)

This past year was the first time in about 10 years that Permian participated in Empty Bowls and they had to borrow wheels from University of Texas Permian Basin.

The goal was to make 100 bowls, but they only had the wheels for a week and disinfecting interrupted them, along with having to teach students how to throw pottery.

“Everybody wanted to be on the wheel, but not a lot of people had the chance to do so, so I wrote this grant to get some wheels … I think the kids are really going to love it,” Trejo Fuentes said.

Plans also are to remove the lockers in front of the art classrooms.

“We’re going to put a display window, so we’re going to be able to display drawings and paintings, ceramics. We’ve already started the process of getting that going so sometime when the school year starts, we’re going to start ripping out all the lockers. And then once those are gone, we’re going to start looking at what kind of glass we want for this area, and then get some track lighting. We’ve always wanted to have an art gallery here at Permian; the problem is we don’t have the space for it. The next best thing is to have an art display here and really nobody uses the lockers anymore. …,” Trejo Fuentes said.

“… We can actually start having shows and galleries and invite parents and the community over so they can see what the kids are doing,” he added.

There isn’t really a time frame for the projects.

“I’m doing a little bit of everything all at the same time,” Trejo Fuentes said.

CAT Magazine is also a growing concern.

“We’re now growing to the point where we’re interviewing celebrities. We interviewed John Mata, who is designer for the White House logo. … We also interviewed Adrian Amiro, who is a celebrity jeweler who did jewelry for Sarah Jessica Parker, and other celebrities. We’re in the midst of interviewing a Chilean illustrator. CAT Magazine is growing. And we’ve actually done an interview with International News from Mexico as they were interested about the garden and in the club as well,” Trejo Fuentes said.

Permian graduate Aiyana Natividad works in the garden Tuesday, June 22, 2021, at Permian High. (Michael Bauer|Odessa American)

PHS graduate and CAT Magazine member Aiyana Natividad and Isaiah Mendoza said they like the idea of the garden as a showplace.

Both volunteered to help spruce things up Tuesday.

“I guess I have like an emotional attachment to this club,” Natividad said.

She is one of the original six founding members of CAT Magazine.

“I think it’s really cool because I never expected it to get so big,” Natividad said.

“It mostly just started out as a joke and now it’s like we’re about to be talked about in Mexico,” she added.

Mendoza said the garden is a great project.

“I like the thought of fixing the garden. He (Trejo Fuentes) asked for my help and that’s why I decided and plus I wasn’t doing anything, so I might as well get out,” Mendoza said.

“… I think we’ll be able to fix it up back to where it used to be,” he added.