Talking Walls: The Mural Speaks, by Carol Raby, Former Librarian
Have you ever taken the time to look closely at the mural outside of the library? If you do it will speak to you!
Almost thirteen years ago, the library at Paseo Del Rey moved into the current space thanks to a grant funded by The Wonder of Reading Foundation, Friends of Paseo and other donors. When it opened, the inside was transformed into a Disneyland for books! The sparkling new shelves and books were dazzling. The outside? Well, it was drab.
I thought, wouldn’t a mural be great on the outside of the building? The design should inspire curiosity about what is inside the library. Dinner table discussions brought up some good questions. Who would design the mural? Who would paint it? How long would it take? What would be the cost of supplies? Were people tired of funding things for the library?
I met with the Library Leadership Team and Katie Saunders, the PTA President. The two of us wrote a Neighborhood Matching Fund Beautification Grant for the artwork supplies and a fee for a muralist; and I wrote a proposal to Friends of Paseo requesting funding for the green patio tables.
Designing the mural was very exciting! I made a list of things that I thought would draw people into the library and could be represented on the wall of a public school. The artwork is original although much of it is inspired by characters from literature. We are a Natural Science Magnet, so animals, plants, habitats and cultures from around the world have a prominent presence on the mural.
At this time, my son Joshua was considering community service opportunities for his Eagle Scout Project. It was easy for him to commit to a project that would enhance the campus where he once attended elementary school. NMF Beautification Grants require that you match dollars donated with volunteer hours. We were delighted when we heard that Paseo Del Rey’s Literacy Garden Mural Project would receive $5000 from the NMF Grant Committee!
In September 2002, design meetings began with Joshua, Doug Reed (the muralist) and myself. Doug listened to our list of ideas. We decided the center section of the mural would be bookshelves holding books, items representing the different cultures of students at Paseo, and things to spark curiosity and interest. To the right and left would be different habitats or locations representing things to learn about, places in California, and settings from different genres of favorite stories.
After a few revisions the drawing was finalized and approved by the Library Leadership Team. Doug purchased supplies and began to create a grid (like graph paper) from one end of the wall to the other. Joshua organized weekend and after school work days with Mrs. Sullivan’s permission and began to gather people from Boy Scout Troop 927, Cub Scout Pack 824, community members and volunteers from Paseo students, families and staff. The grant funds were matched with more than 5000 volunteer hours to accomplish the completion of the project.
The result was the total transformation of a boring white stucco wall into a beautiful mural now ten years old! Although we began painting in November 2002, the wall and tables were not ready until May 2003. On June 6th Joshua, Mrs. Sullivan, and I hosted a reception to celebrate the opening of the Paseo Del Rey Literacy Garden.
This culminating event was the realization of several dreams. The outside of the library is beautiful and enchanting. Students have a spot to come at recess and lunch to read, draw, and chat with friends from other classes. And, Paseo Del Rey received some great publicity in local newspapers.
Along the journey, I learned some things:
- Great big wizards are terrifying to young children. That’s why we have a rainbow with a pot of gold instead!
- Rabbits are not as cute when drawn facing front. Instead, they should always be seen from the side!
- If you want the lines for your black and white floor to provide the illusion of depth have them painted by an engineer and a general contractor.
- Involve as many people as you can so everyone will cherish the mural. If you look at the books on the shelves, some have titles that were selected by each classroom as the most beloved books of our students at that time. Other titles represent authors who have come to Paseo.
I have special memories of the painting sessions. Mrs. Sullivan painted our dragon. I helped paint the black top hat on the shelf. It is fun to stand under the hat and have your photo taken! The Cub Scouts painted the flowers in front of the castle. The Boy Scouts were proud of the spider web! Most of the students who volunteered for the project are in college now or have already graduated. The mural is their legacy to Paseo Del Rey.
So, next time you walk by the mural take a moment for quiet reflection. Perhaps the wall will speak to you!