June 22, 2022

New Murals Bring Color and Joy as Littlebrook Culminates Its Big Project

JOYFUL MURALS AT LITTLEBROOK: Littlebrook Elementary School students and staff recently completed a six-wall indoor mural project during a three-week residency with mural artist Caren Olmsted and a large outdoor mural developed in collaboration with the Arts Council of Princeton. (Photo courtesy of Princeton Public Schools)  

By Donald Gilpin

Covering six walls from floor to ceiling, Littlebrook Elementary School’s new murals, were unveiled last week. Their impact has been powerful.

“The murals have brought joy to us all at Littlebrook,” said Littlebrook Principal Luis Ramirez. The artwork, completed during a three-week residency project with mural artist Caren Olmsted, portrays school activities and traditions, and reflects the input of all the students at the school.

“Our murals represent our Littlebrook community, especially our students,” Ramirez noted. “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.”

He continued, “Our students’ voices are 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.”

The indoor mural project was initiated and funded by the Littlebrook PTO, under the leadership of Co-Presidents Kati Dunn, Sonja Ernst, and Magdalena Janas. For the outdoor mural project, the PTO commissioned artists from the Arts Council of Princeton in looking to enhance the look of the playground area and connect to the larger community.

Janas described the elaborate process of creating the murals. “The longest phase of the project was the design itself,” she said. “Our artist Caren Olmsted listened to all inputs and ideas and created a very unique and original plan. Her work always includes all kids who attend schools that she works in. The mural would have been impossible to do without the help of more than 90 parents — countless hours of priming, painting, and finishing the highest spots on the walls.”

Collaborating with Olmsted, Littlebrook art teacher Colleen Dell enlisted her art classes for several weeks, making sure all students took part in the painting of the walls and the completion of the murals. Greenleaf Painters, LLC donated the paint for the murals.

The first two murals, in the entrance vestibule of the school, present words of welcome from students in more than 30 languages on one wall and a giraffe (the Littlebrook mascot) saying “All are welcome” upside down on the other wall.

The “growing” wall focuses on garden activities that the students at different grade levels work on each year. It includes depictions of the Littlebrook mother duck, the butterfly life cycle, and a quotation about teachers planting the seeds of knowledge.

Next, the giving house wall displays a “donation house” and shows in pictures how students can care and share, including walking a dog, playing together, and other examples of sharing and caring that students came up with in working with school counselor Jenny Walters. Historical ceramics that were already on the walls became a part of the design.

The next wall includes the initials “LB” along with different representations of giraffes, a magnolia tree (Littlebrook is located on Magnolia Lane), a piece of the Delaware Canal, and a quote: “In a world where you can be anything, be nice.” Other parts of the mural include a painted bookshelf framing the entrance to the library and the planet Earth being held by children’s hands.

“I’m very happy the PTO had a chance to improve the look and feel of the school,” said Janas. “We brought in color and happiness to the space where our kids and their teachers spend many hours every day.”

Ramirez expressed his appreciation to all the participants who helped to bring the mural project to a successful completion. “A special thank you to all our students and staff members for their participation in the mural painting,” he said. “They have created something for all to enjoy for years to come.”

Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Carol Kelley added her praise and appreciation. “I love the Littlebrook murals,” she said. “I particularly like how every student played a role, through their art classes. It’s such a nice community collaboration between the school, the students, the parents, the Arts Council, and also the local business that donated all the paint.”

She added, “It’s a great example of everyone working together to build on the best of Littlebrook, and it resulted in these terrific murals.”