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Kids express their true colors with mural at OLHS

Little Rock school enhances grounds with mural project full of meaning for students

Published: April 30, 2018   
Dwain Hebda
Madison Jansen (left) applies some orange paint to the school mural, along with Mabyn Karber and the rest of their second-grade classmates at Our Lady of the Holy Souls School in Little Rock.

Kelly Vogelegsang stalks the blacktop playground area behind Our Lady of the Holy Souls School in Little Rock before a throng of second graders in straight, orderly lines. Paintbrush in hand, the second-year art teacher lays out the rules for the youngsters as they prepare to take their turn painting on the looming mural in front of them, an all-school project that’s at last coming to life.

Pick any shape you want, she tells them, just don’t put the same color in adjoining spaces. Stay inside the lines. Pass the paint carefully to the next person when you’re done. Vogelegsang waves the paintbrush like a magician’s wand and the spell she weaves is palpable on their young faces.

“Are you ready?” she says, smiling broadly. The first seven students, each clutching a cup of paint, step up to the wall to lend their mark. The only thing brighter than the primary dollops they apply is the April Arkansas sun under a robin’s egg sky.

“We had pre-K all the way up through eighth grade paint. I also invited all the parents to join their child’s class and paint if they wanted to,” Vogelegsang said.

Indeed, after the kids take their turn, their teachers and a smattering of parents step eagerly up to the design and dutifully fill in a space. There are plenty to go around and even more for the next class; Vogelegsang designed the mural to feature multiple smaller shapes making up the whole, not unlike a stained-glass window.

It’s also representative of the many faces, ministries and generations that make up this, one of the oldest and largest parishes in the city.

“Really, the whole point of this is for everybody to claim ownership of our artwork that we all worked on together,” said Vogelegsang who grew up in the parish, attended school here and whose son Gus is now a first-grade Wabbit.

“I would love for everybody to remember which area they painted or which area they contributed to the design.”

The idea came about last summer when Vogelegsang attended a class on how to organize and pull off a mural project.

“When I got back I couldn’t stop talking about it and thinking about it,” she said. 

Principal Ileana Dobbins shared Vogelegsang’s enthusiasm and it so happened that the school had the perfect spot, a blank concrete wall facing the playground. The project also sparked the imagination of Vogelegsang’s many artist contributors — Holy Souls’ students — who were asked for their favorite memory of attending school here.

“I had 500 kids’ contributions that I was trying to make sure were represented,” Vogelegsang said. “I took a lot of pictures of what the kids drew and I had a big list of everyone’s thing. Then I kind of tried to go section by section.”

Vogelegsang doesn’t really know how big the mural is, suffice to say large enough to capture the essence of a school with 90 years of history. As such, there are a lot of items included in the collage; some of obvious significance and some not so obvious.

“There’s kind of some wacky stuff, like there’s the Liberty Bell because someone had a student that was very into social studies,” Vogelegsang said. “I’ve got a bouncy house because one year after they did their standardized testing they treated the school with a bouncy house; that was one kid’s favorite memory of school.”

Everywhere the eye roams, another detail takes shape each describing a facet of life here:  A “9 ¾” Harry Potter reference, a birthday doughnut, the church’s distinctive steeple, the word “Hola,” a random alien or two.

“I think it’s really creative and I liked how they put all of the favorite things of the school all in one place,” said second-grader Paul Wurtz, 8. “I put the football for PE because my favorite class is PE.”

Fellow second-grader Ava Brown, 8, pointed out the cheerleader that was her suggestion for the piece, indicative of the school’s spirit.

“You make a lot of friends here and they’re just so nice. And you have good teachers and you learn a lot,” she said. “I think (the project) just feels like a lot of cheer and support at Holy Souls.”

The parish capital campaign, currently underway, will add a safe room and new traffic lane to facilitate smooth drop-off and pick-up in the coming years. Meanwhile, a new fire suppression system is in the process of being installed, new landscaping projects will beautify the campus and this summer the school will replace water fountains with new models featuring water bottle fillers.

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