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Curtis Fifth-Graders Paint Mural in Gym

Sallie Curtis fifth-graders are leaving their mark by beautifying the campus gym with a large-scale mural.

“Knowing that this would be their last year at Curtis, and my last year seeing them all the time, I wanted the fifth-graders to take part in something special and add a little color to the gym, where they spend most days for their rotation and can see their artwork often,” said Autumn Niedenthal, art teacher. “They hold a huge chunk of my heart and I couldn't let the year go by without having them honor Sallie Curtis Elementary in a creative way.”

The mural displays the acronym GYM, standing for "Get Yourself Moving," and is inspired by the movement of Keith Haring's artwork. After discussing and analyzing Haring’s style of art, students chose characters inspired by him, or a sports item they wanted to paint. Students worked in groups of 2-3, and they designated what parts they were doing independently or collaboratively (stenciling, painting, touch ups, gathering supplies, etc.). 

“It took them multiple weeks to stencil, paint, outline and complete touch-ups,” said Niedenthal. “I had my weekly class in the bleachers painting, while the other classes were completing their workouts in the gym, and I felt it was very supportive from both sides. Students playing would take a moment to compliment someone painting, or students painting would cheer on the PE students competing in a game.”

“After a few days of painting, I realized this project was something the kids would remember forever. They would constantly ask ‘Ms. Autumn, are we painting on the wall today?’ like it was so foreign and far-off from what they're used to, and I loved that they wanted to come to my class just so they could go crazy on a piece of art and make their mark on the school walls,” said Niedenthal. “I caught myself tearing up every time they painted because my heart was so full seeing them discuss, plan and collaborate on something so big. I am so stinking proud of every single one of them and the effort they put into the project. Hopefully, this is something they can look back on in a few years and say ‘Hey, I did that! That was so fun!’ and ultimately that's my goal–to create lifelong memories for them.”

Since the completion of the mural, Niedenthal said fifth-grade students take more pride in the other pieces they complete in her classes.

“While I still monitor, I have less kids asking me for assistance because now they know they can do it themselves with a little patience, determination and grit,” said Niedenthal. “Their motivation to complete projects fully has increased–some students tend to quit while they're ahead or don't want to finish something because it doesn't look exactly like my example, but I remind them that their art is special because nobody can do it like them.”