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Painting with a personal touch

District recruits students to contribute to its new decor

Byron Center — After renovating their administration building last year, Byron Center district leaders decided they wanted to decorate.

The Fine Arts Department came to the rescue and West Middle School’s visual arts teacher Janine Campbell came up with a plan: She took photos of six K-12 schools in the district and traced them onto canvases for students in every building to paint. The finished masterpieces will then be hung in the administration building for all to see and admire. 

“I was inspired by a teacher in Tennessee who did a similar project,” Campbell said. “It’s a collaborative effort and open to anyone who wants to help out.” 

While a visitor admired West Middle School’s canvas in Campbell’s classroom, one of her students explained the flowers they were painting with red and orange acrylic paints were dahlias, a fall flower. Campbell included native Michigan flowers on every canvas. 

Nickels Intermediate School visual arts teacher Molly Marshall said each school’s art teacher gave students direction on how to paint with acrylic paints and taught them techniques.  

“The kids selected the colors for most of the paintings and then we premixed some of the building colors for them to use, but they chose where to put the colors,” she said. “They chose the flower and sky colors totally on their own.”

Marshall also said she has witnessed community form as students work on the project. 

“The kids get so excited about the painting and some have met new people while working on the painting,” Marshall said. “It’s been nice to see they are creating a stronger community based around their art.”

Sixth-grader Sydney Thornton said she met new classmates while they painted together. 

“(The painting) is going really well and coming along,” Sydney. “It’s great that kids got to help and I love getting to work with my classmates on this project.”

A group of sixth-graders works on a painting of their school, Nickels Intermediate (courtesy)

Fellow sixth-grader Emily Kochmann added: “I love working on a big project that everyone is going to see when it is finalized. I really enjoy how the colors are so vibrant and it makes it look like it is popping off the painting.”

Superintendent Kevin Macina said he is excited to see the final products from each school.

“I was really looking for ways to showcase our BC student talent, and who better than our Fine Arts department to make that happen,” he said. “I know we have some really talented students here in Byron Center and their artwork will be a great addition to the administration building.” 

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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