Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 21
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
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Johnson Park School Mural Celebrates The School, Community, and Environment

Ellen Gilbert

The Princeton Dinky’s days may be numbered, but it will be forever enshrined in a new mural that graces the entrance to the Johnson Park School (JPS).

Last week, art teacher Linda Gates, artist-in-residence Terri Herring, and a cadre of volunteer parents were busily putting the finishing touches on scenes that relate to Princeton, Johnson Park, and the Stony Brook wetlands adjacent to the school. On Monday evening, the community celebrated the mural’s completion at the school’s “Evening of the Arts.”

Every student and staff member of the JPS community contributed a tile to the colorful scenes that now greet visitors to the school. “It’s a ‘Wow’ moment when people walk in,” observed Ms. Herring.

“Anything goes here,” said Ms. Herring, noting that while students in different grades made various kinds of tiles, they were not necessarily told what their tiles should represent. Thus there are two submarines in the Stony Brook, courtesy of classes who happened to be working on a transportation unit, and a formidable, but unlikely sailing rig on Lake Carnegie, made by a custodian in memory of his recently deceased father who was interested in naval history.

Thomas Sweet, P.J.‘s Pancake House, the Historical Society, the Garden Theater, Conte’s, and, of course, Hoagie Haven are all represented on the Princeton-themed side of the mural. Westminister Choir College’s presence includes tiles showing different instruments, a book signifies Firestone Library, and a halo of hands made by autistic pre-kindergarteners surrounds the bright sun shining down on it all.

Robert Ginsberg, the school’s principal, was happy to point out the three-dimensional basketball poised above a basket, streaming hair of a child coming down a slide, and crossing guard-in-action that all appear in the JP-specific mural. The school nurse contributed a startlingly authentic-looking band-aid tile, presumably for the kid swooping down the slide, or the one with her knees bent to pump up a swing. Koko, the school’s gorilla mascot, makes several appearances.

The school’s artistic efforts don’t end with the murals. The Monday evening event also celebrated the paintings, drawings, and collages that fill bulletin boards and display cases as a visitor walks further into the school. They include several hilarious riffs on “American Gothic,” and a diorama of a medieval castle and its environs made entirely from paper towel and toilet paper tubes.

Asked how the murals differ from the well-received one created for the lobby of Princeton Public Library, Ms. Herring suggested that the JP creation was “a picture of the community. The library mural is wonderful, but this is very much from the kids’ point of view.”

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