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Seaside Heights Mural Project

I love mural painting. Yes, I love all painting and drawing, but painting a mural is extra fun. The physical demands of mural painting make my body feel good. Standing, crouching, reaching, lifting, and most of all, being consumed by the enormity of a painting feels right. When the colors surround my body I feel excited and at the height of my creativity. So when the Borough of Seaside Heights approached me about painting a mural for the boardwalk I was all in. But there was one problem. Time.

I have a full time job as an art teacher, two little boys ages 4 and 6, dogs, a house that always needs cleaning, and a husband. To get a mural done during the school year is nearly impossible but I really wanted this one. What could I do to make this work?

I called my principal at MATES and asked if I could bring the mural to work. I knew the students would be up for the challenge and maybe they would love mural painting as much as I do. Luckily my principal agreed that this would be a fun learning experience for the class and she gave me her full support to move forward with the project. Now I all I had to do was convince the township of Seaside Heights to trust me enough to do this project alongside high school students.

David Casadonte is heading the project. He has hand selected the artists and built the "Art by the Sea Side" mural project up since 2021. He is a young creative and his goal is to spread art through the town. When I offered my idea of doing the mural with my students, not only did he agree but he was thrilled to include them. Thank goodness.

Once I had the approval of Seaside Heights and MATES I needed a design. I decided to brainstorm with the students because I wanted them to have some ownership of the project. I knew if they were going to motivated to work on it, they needed to see some of their ideas. After lots of great ideas we settled on two possible candidates. First up, a play on the angel and butterfly wing trend that would allow passersby to pose with seagull wings. And secondly, an underwater mermaid scene.

Since we really loved both designs we decided to let the project manager decide. He presented both to the township and they decided on the mermaid design. Soon thereafter the wood was delivered and we began priming the two plywood panels. Before any painting activity I always review the painting and clean up procedures in the beginning of class so the students know what is expected. We used a yellow tinted primer for the top half and a blue tinted primer for the top of the design. Priming is a great activity for your enthusiastic students who enjoy more gross motor movements because it allows them to stand, squat, lie down, reach, stretch. It also required very little skill so it makes for a great warm up.

After two coats of primer we used the projector to trace our design. If I could offer only one piece of advice to a new mural painter it would be: use a projector. But, that is a whole different blog post. The students and I used chalk to trace the design onto the wood. Once the chalk outline was perfected it was time to paint the mural. Below are some pictures of the process.

Students worked in small groups on this mural. While some painted, others were mixing colors, on clean up crew, or working on their final exam research projects. I allowed the students to choose which tasks they wanted to do when. I believe that allowing them to manage their class time teaches them to set goals and budget their time according to their own strengths.

After 10 class sessions the mural was complete. We put two coats of protective varnish over the painting to protect it from sun and weather. The finished mural was then mounted on the boardwalk across from Lucky Leo's Amusements in Seaside Heights.

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