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Mural 56, Walnut Elementary, Ashville, Ohio

I knew it was wise to cast a wide net when I contacted schools throughout Central Ohio.  I didn't limit my casting to just principals.  I may not be a fisherman, and like nothing to do with that so- called sport, but I know what a net is for.  I included vice-principals, librarians, art teachers and specialists.  You never know who might recognize my art and help lead the charge.  At Walnut Elementary in Teays Valley, that job fell upon a librarian who had used my clip art for years.  She was thrilled I contacted her.  I was thrilled somebody recognized my work.

Usually, I paint in schools and most people upon arrival have never heard of me.  And, all too often, when I leave schools, most of the faculty still have neither heard of me nor introduced themselves.  It's a mystery to me how and why teachers don't introduce themselves to a guest in their schools who's creating a mural, but that's the world we live in these days.

It was not the case at Walnut Elementary.

When I walked into the office, I spotted my name written on the daily calendar.  I was expected!  The women in the office knew who I was and why I was there.  It was a delightful new experience.

I sat down in the office to wait for the end of school, and was quickly joined by an excited music teacher, also thrilled to meet me.  She, too, had used my clip art for years.  I knew right away I was in a place where I was happy to find myself.

The principal soon escorted me into a classroom with a dozen or more teachers.  And, that's when I learned what they had in mind.  They didn't want one big mural like I usually do - at least not yet.  They wanted small murals about one yard by two yards.  They want murals for each grade level (kindergarten through grade five), plus music, the library, the gym and the art room.

I get to decorate the school!

Most of those present had ideas of what they'd like for their murals.  And, I assured them that I could do whatever they wanted.  The first mural up would be at the entrance to the gym.  It wasn't just because the P.E. teacher told the others present that they needed to check out my website if they hadn't yet.  Of course, that kind of endorsement never hurts.  The P.E. teacher was retiring at the end of the school year.  So, his mural had to be the first completed.

The librarian lingered around after the meeting to give me a tour of her domain.  We passed the main entrance to the school.  She confided that this was where she wanted a huge welcome mural.  The principal didn't know that yet, but that seed would be planted after I started my murals.

And then, we made it to the library.  The room was two stories tall, but only things on the ground level could be used.  There were huge empty walls above us.  I'd mentioned in our group meeting that I salivated over the idea of painting a library.  The idea appealed to my long-term clip art fan as well.  She said she'd start looking for grant money to get a tree house painted on her walls.  I might just find myself driving to Walnut Elementary, through the beautiful Ohio countryside, for a long time to come.

Unlike most of my murals, I painted the mural for the gym all by myself.  It didn't take long to realize I really do prefer the community experience.  But, since this was painted during school, the whole student body was able to watch it take place.  And, like most elementary schools where kids are not supposed to talk in the halls, the kids just couldn't stop oohing and ahhing.  It just wasn't possible to not ask questions.  I loved it.  I can't say all the teachers did.

The rest of the murals were painted by community members, just like I prefer.  The librarian brought along students to help with her project.  More volunteers, students, teachers and parents showed up for the rest.  Now, all kids are welcome.  But, truth be told, I love it when adults also come along with their kids to paint.  One team of two teenagers and two mothers was so very good that I repeatedly urged them to return the next day.  Finally, one of the mothers said that she took a vacation day to come paint with her daughter.  I was truly surprised and said, "I hope your daughter is as touched by this as I am."  It was such a wonderful mother/daughter day and I was so pleased to be a part of it.

Another mother, with two daughters and an extra, asked me if I'd ever painted at senior citizen centers.  Actually, I've written to several of them but not one of them ever replied.  As it turned out, her husband was high up in some senior citizen center chain.  So, I might just have a new connection to bring me into a whole new kind of community.  But, it'll have to wait till I'm done with crackers and lemonade.

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Copyright 2018 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.