By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Jan. 3, 2019) Just before going on Christmas break, students and faculty at Buckingham Elementary in Berlin unveiled a new mural at the school.
Planning for the months-long project began last year and in October muralist Amanda Pellerin from the Baltimore based Young Audiences program began working with students to put together most of the pieces.
Pellerin works with clay and the mural – about 30 feet long and installed in a hallway that’s visible just through the school’s front entrance – is largely made up of small, clay sculptures created by first-through-fourth-grade students.
Buckingham Principal Karen Marx, during a public unveiling on Dec. 21, said a mural by local artist Patrick Henry had hung in the spot, but was showing its age and needed to be replaced. She said the old mural was taken to the Germantown School Community Heritage Center for historical purposes.
“And then we had a big white wall,” Marx said. “I went to our art teacher, Melissa Reid, last year and I said, ‘Melissa, wouldn’t it be great to have something beautiful go into that space?’ And that’s all I needed to say to her, because she just had a vision for exactly what she thought would fit perfectly in that space that would also carry through our kindness theme that we have here at Buckingham Elementary School.”
Marx said the finished mural represented “a little piece of all the students here, because every student has had a piece of their heart put into this, as well as the faculty and staff.”
“It’s so heartwarming when we have the kids walk by and they identify a piece that they put in there and say, ‘That’s me! I did that,’” Marx said.
She also credited community partners, including the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, Maryland Arts Council and the Humphreys Foundation, that helped support the mural project financially.
“We’d also like to make special mention to the Harrison Group,” Marx said. “Hale Harrison and Cindy Wimbrow were so generous to give Amanda Pellerin accommodations, free of charge, while she stayed for several weeks here in helping us with this project.
“We just couldn’t do it without our community partners and it’s just wonderful to see that the support for our schools is out there,” she added.
Among those attending the unveiling were Worcester County Schools Superintendent Lou Taylor and Community Foundation Program Administrator Lauren Zarin.
“The Community Foundation Appreciates the opportunity to help out however we can, and we really appreciate the teachers and administrators who put the work into coordinating this project and writing the grants,” Zarin said.
Reid said she was thrilled by how the project turned out, adding it was “beyond what we even envisioned.”
She said the mural was installed about a week prior to the public unveiling.
“Every time the students walk past, they’re looking at things and they’re seeing something different … and they’re pointing out their tiles,” she said. “They have such ownership of this project.
Reid said Pellerin kept the students involved “from step one all the way through to the very end.”
“She even had them in the art room grouting the tile and then they were polishing it,” she said. “It was a whole process and it turned out unbelievably well.”
Students also seemed pleased. Fourth grader Autum Khamdath, chosen as a representative from her class, said they helped make all of the animals seen in the mural.
“I think it turned out really, really good,” she said.
Pellerin later shared a video message with the students during an assembly.
“I just want to say congratulations on such an amazing project,” she said. “I was so very impressed with all of your drawings, your ideas and, of course, the clay tiles that you guys made.
“Your teachers and I want to recognize what a brilliant job each and every one of you did on this project,” Pellerin added.
She also thanked school staff for its assistance, and singled out several students for their help: first graders Laura White and Selvin Diaz, second graders Layla Evans and Christopher Byerly-Maglio, third graders Tyliah Collins and Chase Poole, and fourth graders Khamdath and Ava McLaughlin.
Pellerin thanked educational assistant Jez King “for being my friend at lunch” and helping her to feel included and a part of the community, and technology coach Bryan Hamilton for letting her steal his chair and use his printer to make “all those color pictures for the first and second graders.”
“Last, but not least, artists make the world go around. Mrs. Reid, you are ‘A’ to the ‘M’ amazing,” Pellerin said.