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Art club mural reminds peers how to be ‘GREAT’

Kent City — A wall at Kent City Elementary School will soon be adorned with a GREAT reminder of how to treat others and act responsibly, thanks to some student artists.

This spring, a handful of students in grades 3-5 took part in the school’s very first Imagination Station Art Club, a six-week club offered as part of a push to offer more after-school learning opportunities. 

The budding artists together created an 8-by-4-foot, framed wooden mural titled “Finding Greatness” that incorporates the school’s mantra of being GREAT (Give and Get respect, Responsible and safe, Engaged, Accepting and Trustworthy). 

“The student artists decided to hide (the letters) GREAT in the painting, much like ‘Where’s Waldo,’” said club leader and MTSS Behavior Coordinator Michael Pavona. “This makes the piece a bit more interactive with the school community. They hid each letter in the painting moving from left to right; it takes some concentration to find each letter.” 

Pavona said the young artists had never worked on a painting of that size before, so they practiced by first sketching images on paper and cutting them out to gain a sense of the space as it relates to composition. They also worked with different tools such as pencils, crayons and paint to learn how each medium would respond to the wooden surface.

That practicing-before-painting turned out to be fifth-grader Evelynn Scudder’s favorite part of the project.

“It was fun to paint something that size. I really liked practicing with paint on paper before working on the big painting,” she said. “(My favorite part was) seeing how it all came together into a big painting worked on by our art club.” 

Club participants also got to practice those GREAT qualities as they sketched, planned and painted together, said Pavona, who has worked as an artist most of his adult life. 

Those lessons included being accepting of one another’s skill levels as artists, being responsible with materials in the art room, being trustworthy to leave the classroom ready for the next school day and “maintaining a higher level of engagement to be open to new ideas and processes, not only from myself but from their peers,” he said. 

Artist and fourth-grader Xavier Beiter said he joined Imagination Station because he was focused on making art and only knew one other student at the beginning of the after-school club, but “by the end of the six weeks I had made new friends.

“I think it was pretty cool, seeing how it’s going to be hung up in the school,” Xavier said of the finished piece. “It was fun to share and see everyone’s sketches.”

The finished mural, ‘Finding Greatness’ (courtesy)

Pavona said they’re still looking for the perfect spot to hang the mural, but the club hopes it will remind KCE students of those GREAT qualities for years to come. 

Read more from Kent City: 
Student’s winning artwork will benefit his whole school
Want student behavior to change? Make them teach it

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Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell is associate editor, reporter and copy editor. She is an award-winning journalist who got her professional start as the education reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune. A Calvin University graduate and proud former Chimes editor, she later returned to Calvin to help manage its national writing festival. Beth has also written for The Grand Rapids Press and several West Michigan businesses and nonprofits. She is fascinated by the nuances of language, loves to travel and has strong feelings about the Oxford comma. Read Beth's full bio


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