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A sequence of new murals was recently unveiled at Littlebrook. The indoor murals were completed during a three-week residency with artist Caren Olmstead. The outdoor mural was developed in collaboration with the Arts Council of Princeton. 

The indoor murals cover six walls, floor to ceiling. All the artwork is related to Littlebrook school activities and annual traditions.

"There is no doubt that the mural at Littlebrook has transformed the entryway and lobby area, but more importantly each student artist was able to leave their mark and they will forever have that story to tell about the section of the mural they painted at Littlebrook," said Mrs. Colleen Dell, Littlebrook's art teacher.

"Through these murals we hope to have a big impact on social emotional health through art," said PTO co-president Kati Dunn.  

The longest phase of the project was the design itself, according to PTO co-president Magdalena Janas. "Our artist Caren Olmsted listened to all inputs and ideas and created a very unique and original plan. Her work always includes all kids that attend schools she works in," she said. "The mural as a whole would be impossible to do without the help of over 90 parents, countless hours of priming, painting and finishing the highest spots on walls. "

Each wall has a story behind it. Entering the security vestibule, students and visitors are welcomed by murals on two walls. One presents words of welcome from students in more than 30 languages. The other mural shows  an upside down giraffe saying “all are welcome” Littlebrook’s mascot is a giraffe.

The “growing” wall is focused on annual garden activities that students work on in each grade level. "We included our mother duck (she’s having her ducklings here every year), butterfly life cycle and a lovely quote about teachers planting the seeds of knowledge," said Mrs. Janas.

Next is the Giving House wall.

"The idea behind it is pretty simple," said Mrs. Janas. "We share and care at Littlebrook." The group painted the "donation house" and showed in pictures how students can share and care (which comes from the school song). Students came up with all representations for the giving house wall with school counselor, Jenny Walters. Historical ceramics became part of the design. 

The fourth wall includes the initials LB with different representations of giraffes, as well as a magnolia tree since Littlebrook is located on Magnolia Lane. There is also a quote: "In a world when you can be anything, be kind.” 

"We also framed the library in a painted bookshelf," she said. Another part of the mural shows a Planet Earth being held by many children's hands.

Said Mrs. Janas: "The thought of bringing Caren Olmsted to school hit me on the first day when we entered the building. It was looking sad. I’m very happy the PTO had a chance to improve the look and the feel of the school. We brought color and happiness to the space where our kids and their teachers spend hours every single day. "

The outdoor mural project was initiated in order to enhance the look of the playground area and connect to the community. The PTO commissioned artists Melissa Kuscin and Maria Evans from the Arts Council of Princeton to do a mural in the same “style” as those done at the Princeton Shopping Center, a regularly visited place in the neighborhood for Littlebrook families.

At the shopping center the words, LOVE, JOY and Kindness have been highlighted for the community. Littlebrook students and staff voted on the word “GROW” for their mural. PTO co-president Kati Dunn says, "Not only does the word depict the growth the children make through the years of their elementary education, but also the growth through COVID, increased resiliency and growing socially and emotionally." 

According to Mrs. Dell, the students had a terrific time painting the murals. Many of the primary students enjoyed having their hands painted green and leaving their handprints on the wall as part of the project. Said Mrs. Dell: "The opportunity to work with Caren Olmstead this year on a large-scale mural project involving each student at Littlebrook School was a blessing for all participants."

"I would highly recommend and encourage any school to collaborate with Caren Olmstead as the art experience for the students involved was profound," said Mrs. Dell.

"I am grateful to our wonderful Littlebrook School PTO for funding this mural project, and to artist Caren Olmsted for her design and direction in bringing it to life," said Littlebrook Principal Luis Ramirez. "A special thank you to all our students and staff members for their participation in the mural painting. They have created something for all to enjoy for years to come. Additionally, thank you to Greenleaf Painters, LLC. for donating the paint for our murals." 

Mr. Ramirez added: "Our murals represent our Littlebrook Community, especially our students. It was important to have every child represented in the artwork. Each student has their unique handprint in the murals and took part in the painting of them as well. Our students' voices are also represented in the murals. The children helped us with the words of welcome that are painted on the walls of our vestibule and voted to have the word GROW painted in the outdoor mural. I am very proud of all our Littlebrook students!"

PTO Co-President Sonja Ernst said about the drive behind the murals, "There is extensive research regarding space design in school environments that shows a relationship between physical characteristics of a school building and educational outcome. Color helps create unthreatening learning environment that supports visual processing among other benefits. Visual stimulation supports visual thinking, problem solving and creativity. When children are ok, they learn better. At Littlebrook, we decided, if there is one thing that we can do following this pandemic, it is to help create a happy place, where our children and our teachers can collaborate and thrive."

Special thanks to all who made this possible including the Littlebrook students and parents, art teacher Mrs. Colleen Dell, artist Caren Olmsted, PTO co-presidents Kati Dunn, Sonja Ernst and Magdalena Janas, and Principal Ramirez.

 

photo of Littlebrook Grow mural
photo of Littlebrook mural dedication

 

 

photo of mural at Littlebrook
photo of Littlebrook mural with hands

 

photo of Littlebrook mural with giraffe

 

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