Murals at Evergreen Elementary inspire hope, creativity and learning


Scott Turner, KP News

When Evergreen Elementary kids and teachers return to school this fall, they’ll have two new murals greeting them.

One mural is inside the staff break room, the other is on an outside wall and ceiling in front of the school’s main doors.

Shortly before school ended for the summer, Tawnya McGraw, a Lakebay parent whose six children have all attended the school, painted a mural on a wall in the teacher’s lounge. The mural depicts sailboats on the bay near Home.

She also painted a small watercolor with a similar nautical theme that hangs near the coffee maker in the room.

“The teachers at Evergreen are so amazing,” McGraw said. “My youngest kid, Jason, is going to be in fifth grade next year and when he leaves that will be all my kids. So it’s nice to give something back to the school.”

The outside mural is the more publicly visible of the two.

It was created by Sylvia Wilson, an artist who did her student teaching at Evergreen there years ago.

Wilson is also the Artists-in-the-Schools director for Two Waters Arts Alliance and the mother of an Evergreen student.

Both McGraw and Wilson credit Beth McCord, the school’s office manager, with spearheading the projects.

According to Evergreen Principal Hugh Maxwell, McCord came up with the idea for the murals. “We had a grey, blank wall out there and the idea of doing a mural started to take shape,” he said.

McCord, Maxwell and second-grade teacher Beth Porter decided it would be good to try to tie-in the murals’ subjects with some of the science taught at the school.

They brought in Wilson, who has a background in set design for film and television. Wilson sketched a few ideas and painted the background scene for the outside mural over spring break.

When school gets back in session in the fall, the students will start adding three-dimensional pieces to the mural.

“From the beginning we wanted to be able to involve the students,” Wilson said. “And we wanted the mural to be something that speaks to our natural environment and includes the natural features and creatures of the Peninsula –– the natural elements from seashore and woods –– and make it realistic and local.”

So next school year, students will create 3-D insects, birds, bats, salmon and other creatures to add to the mural.

Each grade level will have specific art projects that integrate what the students are studying in science, Wilson said.

“For example, the first graders learn all about the lifecycle of insects so they’ll create insects out of copper and glass,” she explained.

In third grade, Harbor WildWatch comes to the school and teaches about the lifecycle of salmon, so the third graders will create copper salmon to live in the stream that’s painted on the mural.

Two Waters artists will help the students create many different creatures that live in the local habitat that Wilson has painted as background on the mural. All the creatures will be sculpted out of ceramics or copper or glass, Wilson said.

“Right now it’s just an empty habitat, but when it all comes together with the students’ own artworks it will be totally magic,” Wilson said.

Her goal is for the whole community “to experience what a beautiful and amazing place the KP is and how lucky we are to have Evergreen right at the center of it. Evergreen really is at the center of a beautiful universe. The students and faculty and staff make it such a wonderful, magical place,” Wilson said.

“The mural is just a byproduct of that. I can’t wait to see it come to life with all the sculptures the students make.”

Wilson is thrilled to be a part of bringing rich art experiences to the kids of the Peninsula, she said. “Its something they can take ownership of, which is so important. They’ll get to look at it as they grow up. Even when they go into middle school, they can still come back and look at it and say, ‘I did that.’”

With all the budget cuts over the past years, small schools no longer have art specialists, Wilson said.

“So we as teachers and as a community need to bring art experiences to the students, whether it’s in the classroom or after-school programs or anywhere we can.

“We need to try to integrate art into their education. There are studies that show that art improves kids’ performance in science and in math and all of the STEM subjects. Art is important in all the areas of the curriculum,” she said.