Give a group of high school art students a blank canvas and a challenge and you'll discover some of their innermost feelings.

At the beginning of the school year, advanced placement art teacher Linda Peterson told her 31 students she had a service project for them. Each one was asked to paint a mural that would be hung in the halls of the school. The students would be leaving a legacy to Timpview High.Each painting is visually stunning. And like Mike Lloyd's "Out of Africa," each one is a commentary on some aspect of society. Students brushed out scenes on history, culture, wildlife, teen social pressures and science.

"I'm always amazed with the students' awareness of what's going on in society," Peterson said. "In every single piece there is some meaning. There's some deep thinking that's gone one."

Ike Bushman, a senior, has been a J.R.R. Tolkien fan "ever since I could read." His painting "Felagund" depicts excerpts from Tolkien's writing. Bushman said he wanted to capture the "feeling you get when you read the books."

The painting is also a puzzle. It contains several writing characters that can only be deciphered by Tolkien readers.

In his work "Gladly the Fools Suffer," Cameron Bigler stroked abstract representations of sex, drugs, violence, religion, music, politics and money to illustrate decisions facing teenagers.

What these 31 students put on canvas washes away some of the common misperceptions about teenagers.

"If people have doubts about teenagers, they should come and really see what teenagers can do," said Principal Randy Merrill.

The paintings are on display in the library until the end of the week. After that, they will be hung throughout the school. Teachers are already lobbying for pieces they want near their classrooms.

Peterson said her students learned a lot about themselves and art during the project. Finishing the piece and turning them over to the school was "almost a cutting of an umbilical cord," she said. Some students put as much as 175 hours into their paintings.

Ryan Olson, a Deseret News/

KSL Sterling Scholar art finalist, said he learned patience. "It takes quite a bit of work to make the whole thing come together."

Olson painted a self-portrait from the waist down showing himself standing around at the school, a gym bag and a drink cup from a convenience store at his feet - a sort of pictorial time capsule.

"I think it kind of represents a group of people that graduate from Timpview," he said.

Students also learned perseverance. Student artists come to a point where they hit the wall or go over it, Peterson said. "With this project, I think many of them made it up over the wall," she said.

Merrill said the project built students' self-esteem. Art students don't typically play before cheerleaders and large crowds like athletes do. "They're not the stars of the school," he said.

"They're kids that have a talent that go quietly about their business," Merrill said. Their accomplishments have taught them to believe in themselves, he said.