Bald Creek Elementary Mural Project

Burnsville, NC

The challenge before me was to lead the K-2nd grade students of Bald Creek Elementary School through a mural project that would allow all 178 students to have a hand in both the design and execution of the mural.  The school's Principal had been longing to transform their cafeteria wall to reflect the brightness of her students and, thanks to the Toe River Arts Council residency program, we found the funding to bring her dream to life.

The solution to the challenge came in the form of a mural quilt.  Inspired by the colorful Barn Quilts of the area, each classroom designed their own quilt square to be added to the wall.  Together we learned about Barn Quilts and how to break down images into their most basic components.  The images selected by each classroom were inspired by that which brought them shared joy, a concept that came easy to the students thanks to the schools Bucket Filling Philosophy.

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We also wanted to make sure we included the Bald Eagle, the treasured school mascot, in the final quilt design. Woven together with the final 10 quilt squares, a colorful collaboration came to life.  While our process was broken up by many snow days, I was always met with great enthusiasm by each and every student when it was time to work on the mural.  And it was with great pleasure that we were able to accommodate the signatures of all 178 students that contributed to our painted collaborative quilt.

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The Take Away:

Growing up, it was always the art related projects I responded to the most in school.  It was clear to me from an very early age that I was visually inclined and art projects were always when I felt the most connected to what I was learning.  Lessons sunk in and became more incorporated knowledge when I learned through some sort of creative expression.  Of course, having become an artist as my profession, looking back on this has always made sense.  But what I learned on this project is just how important learning through a visual and creative means is invaluable for ALL students, artistically inclined or not.

I was most impressed with how gracefully the students collaborated with each other and how respectfully they wanted to share the experience with each other.  I watched as each and every of the 178 students met the project with joy and excitement.  I watched as the shyer students opened up when the brush hit the wall.  I watched their eyes light up as they saw a new color emerge when mixing two other colors, like they had discovered magic.  I watched as minds started to recognize shapes and patterns in every day life they had not seen before.  Connecting with children through a collaborative art process brings skills beyond painting itself. It fosters a dialogue where they can express themselves, learn from their mistakes, see another point of view, experiment & imagine solutions.   

I still can't quite express how these young ones touched my heart.  But what I do know is that bringing art to children gives back beyond expectation.

To see more photos, visit the TRAC website HERE.

To read how I got hooked on collaborative murals click HERE.

Thank You:

Toe River Arts Council

Sherry Robinson

Bobby the custodian and the amazing cafeteria staff at BCE

And all 178 students for bringing this to life with me