Lincoln students paint cafeteria mural

Thanks to the artistic flair of their classmates in the Celebrate Summer program, students at Lincoln School for the Arts have a surprise waiting for them when they return to school. A wall in the school’s cafeteria now hosts a colorful mural featuring symbols of music, dance and other things that make the arts school unique.

Artist Janet Arkelin led students to paint a mural on a wall in Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts’ cafeteria.
Artist Janet Arkelin led students to paint a mural on a wall in Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts’ cafeteria.

The seeds for the project were planted last year when Principal Susan Donovan hired artist Janet Arkelin for a paraprofessional position. When Kathy Gornick, a Lincoln teacher, was planning Lincoln’s six-week Celebrate Summer program, Donovan mentioned Arkelin and thought her experience as an artist was something Gornick could tap into.

Arkelin was brought on board and approached Donovan with an idea: she and the students could paint a mural on a wall in the cafeteria. Donovan gave the go ahead.

“Because I totally trust her and I knew this was a great project for the students, I told Janet, ‘it’s a big blank wall, it’s all yours,’” Donovan said.

Gornick was able to secure funding for the project, including a grant from the Anoka Anti-Crime Commission. Thanks to her work as an artist, including public murals in Anoka and Andover, Arkelin was able to get a great deal on paint from Hirschfield’s in Coon Rapids.

Arkelin and the students came up with ideas of what they wanted to incorporate into the mural and students were allowed to choose which colors of paint to use. Transparencies of the items were made and students discussed where to place them on the mural. After those decisions were made, the students traced the transparencies and then began to paint.

“The students had great ideas,” Arkelin said. “They came up with musical instruments I didn’t think of. They also wanted to incorporate the Spoonbridge and Cherry, a sculpture they’ve seen on field trips to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. It’s a school tradition to go there.”

In total about 45 students took part in the project. Through the project, Arkelin hopes students not only learned the steps of painting a mural, but also the important life skills of working together, following directions and using their minds to be creative.

Arkelin worked to make the students feel like artists so they would have ownership of it.

“The kids are really proud of the mural, especially when people started to tell them how cool it is,” Arkelin said. “It brings color and brightness to a cafeteria that was dark and dingy. It feels like the cafeteria is brand new.”

The project was brought to a close when the students put their handprints on the cafeteria pillars and signed their names.

“I taught the kids that you do not sign your picture until it’s completely done,” Arkelin said.

Donovan is so pleased with the project that’s she picked out the next wall for Arkelin and Lincoln students to transform.

“Janet is a gifted individual who works beautifully with students,” Donovan said. “We are fortunate to have her at our school.”