It started with an email in late Feb. 2019, from Durene Gilbert, program assistant at the Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory in St. Teresa. It was an invitation for students to create a mural for their outdoor community and school-based art space at the lab.

In 2012, the marine lab had six area schools participating in the creation of outdoor murals, one created by the Franklin County Middle School under the direction of middle school teacher Andrea Keuchel.

For this new mural art project, FCS was one of seven schools in the tri-county area chosen to participate. Each school would receive a primed 4-foot by 8-foot marine-grade panel of plywood and 10 colors of Benjamin Moore acrylic latex semi-gloss paint the week of March 11. The panels were to be completed by May 10, and finished projects would be installed on the mural wall at the lab for a celebration and unveiling of the murals. Durene’s email went on to say that the marine lab anticipated seeing different interpretations of this common theme represented in the completed mural panels.

Seventeen fourth- and fifth-grade art students were randomly selected to design and create the mural. The group started with a collaborative brainstorming session, working in cooperative group structures to create a visual concept to communicate the theme ‘Conservation: Exploring the Deep Sea.” A timeline for completing the mural project was created, and a plan was put into place to carry out when the students would meet in the Seahawk Arts room to work on the mural.

Letters to parents were sent home explaining the mural project with an encouragement to send clothes for students to change into. “Seventeen elementary students working on a mural was bound to be somewhat messy,” said art instructor Lydia Countryman.

When the students were ready to begin painting the mural, the board was nowhere to be found. Apparently, the marine lab personnel delivered the primed panel board to the school during spring break, and the board was taken away by groundskeepers to an unspecified location. It took several calls to the FCS campus manager to locate the 4-ft by 8-ft mural board and by the time it was brought to the art room, the eager students had to wash it off and repaint it with primer. Just a minor setback, to say the least.

Students showed up to work on the mural during the scheduled work times, and/or when teachers released them from class. The background was painted first, then students’ individual drawings, created on the chart paper from the initial brainstorming session, were enlarged and cut from plywood for each student artist to paint and add to the mural board. When the personal works of art were primed, painted, and embellished to completion, these individual mural pieces were adhered to the board with liquid nail glue and finishing nails.

It took roughly eight weeks, from brainstorming session to pick-up day, to complete the mural. Students and art teacher worked around regular scheduled K-5 elementary and high school art classes, Florida standardize testing, schoolwide events, and student absences. The 17 students worked well together, even when the yellow paint spilled onto the art room floor. With quick action and lots of paper towels, only a trace of the mishap still graces the art room floor.

The finished mural board was picked up by the marine lab, on schedule, with students and art teacher feeling quite accomplished and beaming with pride. The colorful, animated depiction of deep sea conservation is a collaboration, designed and created by students with vivid imaginations and youthful creativity.

Teachers, students, parents and community members are invited to the FSU Coastal & Marine Lab this Saturday, May 18 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. for a celebration and unveiling of the seven school murals.

Seahawk Artistry would like to give a Standing Ovation to the following art students for their time and creative energy: Brady Fisher, Kenia Peralta, Layla Vanderschaaf, Lilly Dorman, Caden Fichera, Jordan Shiver, Harmony Shurock, Raina Chisholm, Logan Granger, Sienna Polous, Sean Gray, Ethan Gilmore, Gwen Lamberson, Katelyn Spurlock, Gavin Page, Alex Carmichael, and Destiny Fleming. A Big Thank You goes to the fourth and fifth grade teachers for allowing students to work on the project during the scheduled class segments, and a Special Thank You to Daphne Evanoff and Bobby James for their help with the jigsaw and air compressor tools.