This mural is uniquely different from all my other murals. It wasn't really a community effort. Because it was all lettering, it was impossible to have children help me, even though they most certainly volunteered. It was also impossible to have adults help me, because none of them dared volunteer. No, I was on my own with this one. However, I love doing lettering so it was I was completely in my comfort zone. Well, it was as comfortable as it can be next to a restroom where at least one or more grade levels (seemingly) continuously lined up. And if they were not in line, lingering odors from those rooms reminded me of their presence and presents.
If you have ever worked with really young children at school, you probably know all about "duck tails" and "bubbles". It was all new to me. The dream was for kids to be silent in the hallways. Duck tails and bubbles were supposed to help that dream come true. So, if you hold your hands together behind your back, two things are hopefully accomplished. One, your fingers form a little duck tail. And, two, you don't smack, poke, hit, slap, push or punch the person next to you in line. As for that bubble, well, if you blow your cheeks up with a huge mouthful of air, and keep them all puffy, you can't talk to anyone in line.
Such good plans! So little success!
Okay, it was obvious that the kids were not supposed to talk to me or anyone else while in the hall. It just wasn't possible. What I did was too unusual, too interesting, and so very irresistible. It was like asking kids not to touch a freshly painted wall surface. It wasn't going to happen. I sat on the floor, chair or table by the bathroom for almost a month carefully painting words of inspiration like compassion, responsibility, peacefulness, equality, generosity and cooperation. And, in spite of all efforts to silence the masses, there were so many questions and comments as well as wet paint finger smears to correct.
The first question most people asked was, "Are you a professional artist?" I always replied, "Does it look professional?" Fortunately, the answer was always positive. But, nobody really seemed to believe that what I did could really be a real job. Most thought it was very cool to do. And, after it was established that I really was an artist, there was great debate that continued the entire time I painted whether I really was allowed to paint on the walls. That was simply inconceivable. Another question I enjoyed was, "Do you love art?" And, when I got to the point where I needed to outline some of the letters, one boy exclaimed, "How do you do that? Nobody can paint a straight line!"
Well, I can.
Adults also had questions. One woman asked, "Are you a teacher here?" When I said no, she told me that with my talent I would be wasting my talent in a classroom. And on parent night, one mother asked if I were the art teacher. Her son replied, "No, he's an artist." I didn't know his name, but I liked that kid.
The mural had around forty words and most of them were new vocabulary for the students. And, it was fun to explain them to kids. The ones who spoke to me most often were too small to even read the words. However, they weren't the only ones learning new words in this process. I learned a new word myself. The older kids in school didn't talk to me as much. They didn't ask as many questions. But, they admired quality work when they saw it and I heard on multiple occasions that I was "beasty".
To be very honest, I didn't know what it meant at first. I could see it as a term for a grumpy person who acted like a beast to them. But, I hadn't really done that. I ended up asking the school counselor for the definition. I was assured that it meant I had done something extremely well. It was their highest praise for an amazing job.
So now, you also know I am beasty.
There were other questions. Fortunately, the weather in Ohio was still warm and I wore sandals some days. Unfortunately, there was no scaffolding, so I had to climb around on a reading table. Watching a huge white man climb around on top of a table was already a new experience for the little ones. None of them were certainly allowed to do that. But, this guy didn't have any shoes or socks on. That needed an explanation. It made perfect sense when I said that I was much more likely to trip on a table while wearing sandals. I was much more secure with bare feet and I really didn't want to fall. Okay, it all made sense, but it still must have been an unusual sight.
Now, my favorite question only came once, but it might have been thought a few times. The little girl must not have ever painted. I guess she knew nothing about splattering paint on shirts. She didn't understand that no matter how carefully I worked, paint always ended up on my pants. Always. She knew none of that. She just watched me paint day after day after day. And then, one day, she had to ask, "Do you have any nice clothes?"
I guess not.