In an effort to promote the arts, Austin Elementary School took an offer to have a mural painted at their school.
That mural was painted by a USD student.
Brianna Olson, a junior graphic design major, said after being a part of painting the mural on the movie theater, her professor encouraged her to pursue a project on her own.
“I kind of wanted to lead it and then the AIGA South Dakota had an idea fund so they would give you money to do a community project that bettered your community,” Olson said. “So I wanted to do a mural with a focus on children.”
Olson reached out to the Vermillion Area Arts Council for help on the mural, so they suggested she contact the schools in town and Austin Elementary School jumped at the idea.
Kim Johnson, Austin Elementary School principal, said when the school was contacted this summer by Olson about doing a mural at their school, they were all in.
“Anytime we can promote the arts in our habitat, both for the visual appeal for our students and for giving them greater exposure to the arts, we’re all in,” Johnson said.
During the summer, Olson worked with kids ages five to 16 at the Messy Hands Art Camp at the Vermillion Area Arts Council to get their ideas for the murals.
“When I was working with the kids, a common theme that they came up with was ‘what makes Vermillion a special place to live,’” Olson said. “So they kind of wanted to do a lot of images that were related to their favorite things about being in Vermillion.”
The mural has nine different sections that showcase things like the Vermillion pool, activities the kids like to do, corn fields and even Verm cats. The kids got the opportunity to help pick the color palette for the mural and draw their own mini-murals, Olson said.
“On the left side, there’s also some of the drawings, there’s like a unicorn and a giraffe that (is) featured,” Olson said. “And those are actually taken exactly from the kids’ drawings. There’s a lot of inspiration just from what they drew.”
Phyllis Packard, Messy Hands Art Camp coordinator, said she thinks the kids will enjoy seeing the mural and taking a sense of ownership in it.
“It becomes part of their growing up and ownership of the place that the mural is finally located,” Packard said. “I think that happens with any mural. It becomes a part of not only that building and part of the community, but it is very much a part of the lives of the people who work on it.”
During the Vermillion community celebration at Sanford earlier this year, Olson said she took the mural with the design outlined on it and let community members paint it.
“Over 400 community members showed up for that and so I had a lot of hands actually help me paint the design so that was really fun,” she said.
The mural is eight feet tall and 12 feet wide. Olson painted it on three different panels that will be mounted to the side of the elementary school near the playground.
Johnson said the mural provides an opportunity for the school to showcase how much they value the arts on their campus as well as showing the students they can be involved in the process of the making of the mural.
“It just depicts how much they (the students) appreciate the community,” Johnson said. “It shows many components of their favorite things in the community.”
Olson said she hopes the mural encourages students to pursue projects that involve working together.
“That was one of the most fun things for me was seeing how well the kids worked together and come up with ideas and how creative they could be,” she said.
Packard said having murals like this one in Vermillion helps brighten the community and give the town more history.
“Murals are such a fun way to bring a flat service into something that is exciting and involves people,” Packard said.
Olson said the community is important to her, so working on the mural meant a lot.
“I’ve really loved living in Vermillion and I’ll be glad to have a piece of me still here if I move out of South Dakota or move to a different city,” she said. “I’ll always have a piece of art that I created and it will be here.”
The mural is scheduled to be installed on the elementary school during the week of Nov. 5-9. There will be a special dedication and reveal of the art.