AKRON – Originally renovated as a destination room to highlight current Tippecanoe Valley greatness, the Viking Room has morphed into a haven of dedication to both the Valley past as well as its future.
The quaint room, situated adjacent to the Tippecanoe Valley High School lunchroom, has been dubbed the Viking Room, but had seen a fair share of the school’s sacred history. Largely used for ceremonial purposes including college signings and alumni events since it was repurposed a half dozen years ago, the Viking Room has woven its way into the colorful lore of the school’s proud history.
In December, the school commissioned one of its own, 1993 Valley graduate Mariah Kaminsky, to paint a mural as part of a reconstruction project for the room and its surroundings. As time wore on, one of the school’s teachers and community leaders – Jeff Shriver – saw his health take a turn for the worse in his battle with liver cancer. That fight ended on Dec. 18 when Shriver lost his battle and went to be with the Lord.
Coincidentally, Kaminsky’s original mural design was including a Viking ship. Her choice to alter the original plan and include an image of Shriver as the captain of the ship was made as the captain himself had taken a turn for the worse. The sketch and embodiment was made in time for the funeral at the high school on Dec. 23, setting a chilling but fitting backdrop for the room Shrive had spent so much time in.
Let it be known the room to which the mural shines is the former classroom of Shriver, with some of his old materials still in the cabinets that have been left behind. He also had a hand in recreating the classroom into the Viking Room.
“I think the mural was always naturally about someone like Shrive from the beginning,” stated Kaminsky. “He was a Viking in every sense, right? Then when he got sick, it became a fight song in a way. I was a cheerleader during my time at TVHS, it sticks with you. Then when he passed…it became a tribute. That is the beautiful thing about art, it can be whatever you need it to be at the time.”
Kaminsky was initially recommended by Shriver himself as someone who could spice up the room. After presenting some initial ideas, Shriver became sick. Kaminsky began work on the wall on Dec. 17. It wouldn’t be 48 hours before news of Shriver’s passing made its way to Kaminsky. As she mentioned, her artwork suddenly took on a new form.
“What was originally a celebratory mural of the viking spirit now felt like a memorial,” Kaminsky said. “The next day I came in early to start coach Shriver’s image as the lead viking. Throughout those next two days, streams of visitors, faculty and students came into the room to see the mural and have a moment. This was the most powerful experience I have had on a mural project. I would never have imagined how important this project would become that week.”
The Viking Room itself is still under construction. The school, per representative Lori Tilden-Geiger, will put together a committee including the Shriver family, to put finishing touches on the decor and feel of the room. The unveiling of the room should come in the fall, per Tilden-Geiger.
Until then, the Viking Room sits somewhat idle. As with the passing of a loved one, the care of a legacy is always delicate, and the room Shriver once used as his own classroom is being prepped to carry on the spirit he once held so high for the school he dearly loved. Kaminsky is honored to be a vibrant part of it.
“I have been fortunate to be a part of several very special public projects in my career,” stated Kaminsky. “Each one for unique reasons and the awesome people I have gotten to work with. This project was close to my heart from the beginning. I love this school and am so very proud to be an alumnus.
“I didn’t really know what my impact on that week meant until I posted a short video on social media about my progress the day that I painted Shrive’s image. It took off like no other post I have done. The impact he had on so many really rang true to me at that time. The response was so touching. I have seen the power of art in my career, of course, but not like this. It is reassuring to me that I am right where I need to be. For an artist, that is an important realization. Just like coach Shriver to be reminding us to stay true to our voyage even after he is had left.
”It actually turned out to be a celebratory mural after all, just not in the way I had originally intended.”
To see some of the works Kaminsky has commissioned as an artist, visit her Facebook page.