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School News Network: Rockford Crestwood Elementary mural project

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Students and teachers at Rockford’s Crestwood Elementary School wanted to express the idea of kindness and community in their school. They did so by teaming up with an artist to create a hallway mural that colorfully expresses those values. In the process, students learned a good bit about art and story-telling.

A hallway in Rockford’s Crestwood Elementary is a bit more colorful and a bit kinder, thanks to a recently completed mural by Lowell artist Mary Bent-Buist.

The wall-high painting is the result of a collaboration between Crestwood second graders and Bent-Buist, who incorporated students’ drawings into a mural expressing a moving message: “One kind word can change someone’s entire story.”

The mural evolved from an activity initiated by second grade teachers Jaci Jackson, Lauren Gleghorn and Sharayah Gariepy. They teamed up to create a project for their 60 students that would connect different subject areas and “help them find meaning in their work,” Jackson said. The central idea was creating community in the school.

Once they’d settled on the idea of a mural, Jackson asked her sister, Bent-Buist, to participate. Bent-Buist’s artwork is infused with a heart for children, inspired by the loss of her three year old daughter, Rory, to cancer in 2017.

Bent-Buist met with the second-graders to talk about the project and gather their drawings to include in the mural. In mid-September, the piece began to take shape: Students outlined the design with permanent markers on a projected image, so each child had a hand in both the design and execution of the mural.

Asked what the picture is about, student Annalise Fant said: “Crestwood, and how it’s a great place to be.” The message? “Being kind, cooperation.”

For School News Network, I’m Charles Honey.