With windows for their canvas, Parkville High students put their creative talents to work during the local business association's fourth annual window decorating contest.

Their assignment at Hohne Pool and Spa offered them some of the largest glass spaces on Harford Road.

They checked sketches, drawn in their classroom, and set to work on a blustery, cold afternoon. Standing in raised but empty flower beds, they could extend their brushes to the tops of the tall windows. The falling temperatures and gusting winds Thursday had Ed Pinder, a contest organizer, wondering if the Parkville students could complete the task. When he drove by Friday morning, he found "the windows looked fantastic."

The students were among a dozen groups, including several area schools, the recreation center, Scout troops, a day-care and a dance studio, who would decorate windows - in washable paint - for 36 businesses.

"This helps give Parkville a sense of identity and makes this community stand out," said Pinder, a board member of the Parkville Carney Business and Professional Association, which sponsors the contest that offers $1,000 in prizes. "It brings in the whole community and gets people thinking of Parkville as a shopping district."

The workmanship and images have become better, bigger and more colorful every year, he said. From penguins at the north end of the business district to Loch Raven High's take on billiards at the southern end, the windows help draw people to the area, he said.

James Hesser, art teacher at Parkville High, said the project "gets kids out in their community. They plan this out every year. Painting the windows gives them more freedom to express themselves. But they will start critiquing themselves."

Angela Chung, a senior and president of the school's National Art Honor Society, said penguins emerged as a favorite winter theme. An arctic animal seemed appropriate for the cold weather project. She detailed a design for painting penguins playing in the snow and, in keeping with the business, frolicking in a big blue pool.

There would also be a Christmas tree, snowflakes, a snowman and Happy Holidays in large red and green letters.

"The colors are bright enough so drivers can see the picture," said junior Chika Esochaghi. "This is a great way to express ourselves."

Angela oversaw the project, moving from one window to the next and checking by phone with another group painting at Murray's Cellular farther down the road. "This way the community gets to see our artwork," she said.

Sophomore Kirsten Groncki urged her schoolmates to think beyond black and white birds to holiday themes.

"Everybody has great ideas, but we have to get a Christmas tree in here somewhere," she said.

Junior Arielle Wilmore obliged, drawing a towering green pine freehand. "A tree is not as hard to draw as a penguin," she said. "If I mess up a branch, there is always water to clean up and start over."

By the time senior Lindsay McCoy arrived late from track practice, the pool had dried enough to paint one penguin diving into the deep blue water and another "just chilling" poolside, while sipping from a steaming mug of hot chocolate, she said. The inspiration for that touch came from the cups of cocoa a classmate doled out to the shivering artists.

Classmates at the cellular store went for whimsy, framing holiday images inside gigantic cellular phones. They topped their tree with AT&T;'s familiar globe.

"They tailored the art to our needs," said Tom Murray, the business' owner. "One time I hired an artist to do the windows. This is a much nicer idea."

And, best of all, Pinder said, no one has to fret about post-holiday paint removal.

"We are hiring a window cleaner," he said.

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