It takes a really big project to include every single student and staff member at Tremont Elementary School.
When a world-renowned muralist reached out to schools in central Ohio about his next project, Principal Jim Buffer and his staff saw an opportunity for Tremont to work together on something that would be really big — something that would be enjoyed by students, staff members and the entire Upper Arlington community for generations to come.
Now bursting in bright colors from a brick facade overlooking the playground on the east side of the school is a 54 foot by 6 foot mural, created in collaboration with artist Phillip Martin.
“It was truly a community effort,” said art teacher Susan Sundberg. “Every student, teacher, paraprofessional and other staff members were able to paint on the mural.”
Tremont received special permission from the City of Upper Arlington for a mural of this size, and the project pools funding from a cross-section of community sources: the Upper Arlington Education Foundation, the Tremont School Association and the UA Cultural Arts Division.
In addition to serving as a painting crew, the students of Tremont played an integral role in the design of the mural.
Buffer, Sundberg, art teachers Lindsey Chisholm and Danielle Poling, and the TSA’s Artists in Schools coordinator, Emily Ness, collaborated with Martin on the outline for the design: seven panels that subtly spell out TREMONT in the background. They then assigned six of the panels to each grade level at the school, with the middle panel — the “M” — representing the school as a whole.
Then the kids got to work in their art classes.
“Students were asked to list and draw ideas of events they remembered most from each grade level,” Sundberg said. “We gave the drawings to Phillip, and then Phillip used their ideas to design the whole mural.”
The result is baby chicks on the kindergarten panel, birdhouses for first grade, dinosaurs for second grade and much more, up to the final fifth-grade tradition — a luau at the end of the school year — on the final panel.
Students of all grade levels worked in shifts over the course of five days to paint the panels, and numerous family volunteers and staff members helped during the students’ shifts and later with final touch-ups.
A focal point of the mural is a number 100 — representing not only the 100 years of the City of Upper Arlington and Upper Arlington Schools but also the traditional 100-day celebrations of the school year. Inside the number 100 are what appear to be polka dots from afar but are something far more meaningful.
Every student in the school and every staff member “also left their ‘thumbprint’ on the mural by literally painting their thumbprint in the 100,” Sundberg said.
Martin’s goal as a muralist is to create a community experience through art, and he travels around the world to bring that experience to communities. The project at Tremont was his 55th mural in 25 countries.
“I feel extremely fortunate to have had the experience of working with an artist who has left his mark around the world and now at Tremont,” Sundberg shared. “Phillip has enjoyed the interaction with the students and always stops to have a conversation with them and answer their questions. This helps students to feel more connected to the mural and take great pride and ownership in their community mural!”
Buffer expressed his thanks to Martin as well as the parent volunteers, UA+Ed, the TSA and the UA Cultural Arts Division for making this project possible.
“This was such an incredible experience for our students and our staff to work with Phillip and produce this amazing piece of art,” he said. “This mural beautifully captures everything that makes Tremont such a special part of the entire UA community.”