When Annett Inacker called me up and told me about her elaborate plan to create a whole series of murals that inlcuded the walls and playground at Bubb Elementary School I thought, “Wow. She’s ambitious”.
When she told me she hoped to complete it all in one weekend, I thought, “Wow. She’s crazy.”
And I wanted in.
Annett wanted the murals to reinforce the Project Cornerstone character development curriculum they used at the school as well as Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset” strategies. She wanted to integrate the art throughout the playground, and include a walkable map of the United States. Though I didn’t know it at the time, she was also going to supply me with a secret weapon: Sam Johnsen. Sam was the go-to parent for art projects at Bubb. From beginning to end she was self effacing and downplayed her creative talents. Ultimately, all of our best ideas came from Sam.
When it was time to create the designs, Sam and I sat down together with the Project Cornerstone curriculum books (which I can tell you are not chosen for their artistic merit) and tried to figure out how we were going to create a cohesive series of murals that would be delightful whether the viewer was familiar with the corresponding Project Cornerstone lesson or not. Sam said, “Well, I know most people have never heard of him, but a long time ago there used to be a mascot called the “Bubb Cub…” With that we were off and running with ideas.
One of the primary goals of the project was to introduce the idea of color to the Bubb campus. Every wall in the school was a plain vanilla cream color. It wasn’t exactly a color as much as a bad habit. I am guessing the district didn’t so much as approve our plan as hedge their bets. How much damage could they do in two days?
Some “before” images:
Unbelievably, the mural projects were only one piece of the ambitious beautifcation projects Annett was orchestrating for the weekend. But I soon found out Annett had her own secret weapon. In addition to her prodigous project management skills, she managed to have Bubb adopted by Beautiful Day. She was anticipating an army of over a hundred volunteers to show up in shifts over the weekend to help with a variety of beautification projects.They would be involved in general painting, re-striping the playground, deep cleaning the classrooms and library, and working on the plantings and landscaping. Her church, New Beginnings Christian Church (NBCC) cancelled all Sunday services so the parishioners could help with two Beautiful Day projects.
The plan was that I would sketch the designs on the wall the day before, and then just train the volunteers as painters in the morning. I assured them it was a great plan. Honestly, I had no idea if it would work. Saturday morning came and these happy, enthusiastic people started showing up…
Usually I work like the Lone Ranger. Sometimes I get caught in thinking no one can do this as well or as quickly as I can, so I’ll just buckle down in my corner and work harder. I’ll be honest, it was difficult to let go of the details. By midday on Sunday I felt like the subject of Munch’s painting “The Scream” as I looked across the playground and saw dozens – it felt like hundreds- of half used paint containers and brushes strewn about drying up in the sun. There were people walking over the freshly painted lines, paint drips everywhere, painting outside the lines, and we ran out of paint about 4 times during the day. It was far from perfect, but what was happening was alsoamazing. Engineers painting rainbows. Parents connecting with their teenagers over rainbow colors. People from all over the peninsula spending their precious weekend time to make the world a more beautiful place. Kindness. Smiles. Joy. It was a symphony of goodwill. For me it was like the Lone Ranger goes to Diwali: humanity, happiness, and chaos all mixing together.
And if the day well spent wasn’t rewarding enough, look what we did!
This project stretched the limits of possibility. As you can imagine, we were all pretty wiped out by the end of the weekend. But I am so glad I returned to the campus Monday morning to see the reaction of the kids running along their new rainbow trail, having fun at the interactive stations and admiring the murals.
It would not have been possible without the help of the loving volunteers who showed up, both through Beautiful Day and the handful volunteer artists who answered my call. It was humbling to witness what can be acheived through community effort. Thank you to everyone!
Dream like an eagle, plan like a mouse. – Danielle La Porte
Dear Annett and Sam: We did it!