A brightly colored mural runs along one end of the otherwise scuff-filled gymnasium. It captures the eye with its depiction of the five core scholastic subjects and 10 character education words.
Staff and students worked relentlessly on the project since the first sketches in early fall 2013.
Principal Barbra Ector utilized money available through Race to the Top funds to finance the project. She contracted teaching assistant Timothy Purifory to design and oversee the artwork. The project provided the students with hands-on experience.
“The students got excited about it and they are very proud of [the mural],” Ector said. “Every student in the school had something to do with it at one point in time.
“Some of them found out they are not really artists and did not really like it. Others found out they really did like it and wanted to pursue it.”
Purifory began with instructions from Ector to incorporate the five core subjects in an academic environment. He took suggestions from students, sketched out a design, made copies and had various classes color in the drawing. The educators felt this created early student buy-in to the project.
Guidance Counselor Blair Deacon witnessed the student buy-in from the early stages of the mural. She happily noted how every student had a hand in the mural.
“Any outward expression is good for the kids. Being an alternative school, we don’t have art classes,” Deacon said. “... So many of our kids are very, very artistic. They need to be able to express that, being in school all day. We just try to come up with some alternative methods for them to express themselves.”
Purifory projected the completed design on the wall of the gymnasium so he could trace out the mural’s pictures over Thanksgiving Break. The artwork spanned roughly 8 feet by 60 feet. Students began a paint-by-numbers type project upon their return to school.
Student David Garcia said he acted as Purifory’s unofficial assistant throughout the project.
“I picked out colors, mixed colors, told people what to do and watched when Mr. T was not there,” said the tattoo-artist hopeful.
He ended up refining the stars on the American flag after they proved a little too difficult for some students to manage.
Most of the students can point to the various spots they painted throughout the project.
Mason Jones said he painted ‘child’ and various colors surrounding the word. Anthony McMahan pointed to the American flag and the word ‘honest.’ Brent Miolen and Alyssa Hendrickson said they painted various spots throughout the 60-foot mural.
Jones admitted to a little messiness while he painted. All students took off their shoes during the painting process and either wore coveralls or a large T-Shirt. Jones managed to get paint on his socks.
“We had to go over a couple spots a few times when we messed up and others only once,” he added.
McMahan said painting was kind of difficult when the lines were not exact. He and Jones agreed the shirts and shading could both be difficult as well.
Each student appears pleased with the final product.
“It’s pretty cool. I’ve done something like this at a school,” Jones said. “It got us together pretty well.”
Added McMahan, “It was fun. It was a fun experience.”
Hendrickson said the final outcome was “really good.”
All five students said they would be interested in completing another mural project next year. Ideas for the next design included extracurricular activities like sports and electives. Garcia suggested utilizing a different art style in the next mural for diversity’s sake.
Deacon said the project helped connect the students to the school. The students look at the project and think, “I did that. I was a part of that.”
The project allowed students an opportunity to leave class for 15, 25, 30 or 45 minutes at a time and express themselves. It was also an opportunity for them to relax and get away from academic stressors. Ector said she sent students who could not sit still to help with the mural as an outlet, so they could concentrate better in class.
Students and staff finished the project in early May.
Purifory said he believes interactive murals like the one in the school gymnasium benefit those involved. He described similar projects and artwork as his dream and vision. Those interested in pursuing an interactive mural can contact Purifory at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Kids love it. People who come by love it,” he said of the mural. “I think this is something they can look back on years from now and say, ‘I was a part of that.’”