• Art leaps from small fingertips

    By Alice Shelton, The Times-News 11/12/02
    Reprinted with permission

    MEBANE — A giant mural depicting some of the state’s symbols, animals and geography greets Garrett Elementary School students as they enter one of the school’s main hallways.

    Whitney Blalock, Christian Garcia-Salgado, and Emily Rudd stand in front of the Garrett Elementary mural.  
    McNair Rivers / Times-News
    Whitney Blalock, left, Christian Garcia-Salgado, center, and Emily Rudd stand in front of the Garrett Elementary School mural, which depicts the mountains, the piedmont area and the coastal plains of North Carolina.



    The 44-foot-long and 6-foot-high mural, “From the North Carolina Mountains to the Sea,” features a parade of animals coming from the state’s mountains heading to Garrett, which is perched on a hilltop. Leading the parade is an oversized green gator, the school’s mascot, holding the N.C. state flag.

    Nita Wrenn, a Mebane artist and mother of a Garrett fourth-grader, came up with the concept for the mural. She drew inspiration from a mural in a Fairbanks, Alaska, library that she and her family visited. Her husband, Rusty Morton, a woodworker for the U.S. Department of Interior, spends six months out of the year working in the state.

    The Fairbanks mural features a parade of animals going to a castle, Wrenn said.

    “We adapted it to North Carolina and a parade of domestic animals going to school.”

    Every student and staff member literally had a finger in making the mural. Their fingerprints were used to paint many of the mural’s animals. Fifth-graders’ fingerprints form the wings of honeybees, which are flying out of a hole in a tree. The honeybee is the state insect.

    “We wanted a set idea for each grade level but it had to be a simple one,” said Dee Curtis, the school’s art teacher.

    Wrenn and Curtis said they learned things about the state they previously didn’t know. “We learned the state has a state dog — the Plott hound,” Wrenn said.

    At times, the project was a bit overwhelming, Wrenn and Curtis said.

    But “it turned out,” Curtis said. “It was fun to do.”

    “They really tried to make it meaningful,” said Principal Rhonda Schuhler. She noted that teachers are incorporating many of the animals and plants in the mural into their students’ studies.

    Tyler Harvey, a fifth-grader, said he likes the mural’s beach scene, which features the Wright Brothers’ plane and a lighthouse.

    “I like it because when I look at it I picture myself there,” he said.

    “It’s great artwork,” said fifth-grader Sarah Rogers. “It makes people happy when they walk by it.”

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    Garrett Mural