Crothersville Elementary students greeted by new mural

CROTHERSVILLE — Gone are the 2008 ISTEP scores, newspaper articles from two principals ago and other framed items and plaques on the wall in the foyer at Crothersville Elementary School.

Now, there is a bold, colorful mural with the words successful, intelligent, important, kind, dreamers, goal setters, loved, equal, friends, athlete and creative and the phrase “We are … the future.” There also are paintings of a light bulb, a pencil and music notes.

Who made the concept come together? Kyle McIntosh, owner of Beauty from Ashes Tattoo Parlor in Crothersville who lives in town and also uses his talents to create murals.

“Oh man, it was a huge difference,” he said of the before and after of the foyer wall. “It was really outdated. … You could tell it hadn’t been changed. It probably had been the same color theme since Day 1. To see that whole room, it looks totally different. It’s a complete transformation.”

McIntosh said the idea of painting a mural at the school was discussed a couple of years ago, but nothing was ever really solid until this spring when he walked through the school with Tiffany Reynolds, who is a Crothersville school board member and helps with The Happy Tree Art Studio at the school.

She had seen other murals completed by McIntosh and thought it would be cool to have one in the school. The end of the art studio’s fiscal year was approaching, and some money was left over from an Indiana Arts Commission grant that had to be spent by June 30.

Reynolds told CES Principal Whitney Reinhart the leftover money could be used for supplies and to pay McIntosh for his time creating a mural.

“She was like, ‘Yeah, let’s make it happen. Let’s do it in the elementary lobby,’” Reynolds said. “It happened kind of quick, and within a couple of weeks, we went through the planning stages and kicked around ideas of what we wanted it to look like. Everybody was on the same page as far as creating something impactful and powerful for the kids to see every day, and Kyle did his thing, and then we made a few tweaks, and lo and behold, it was done.”

Reynolds had sent McIntosh examples of murals with motivational words, but those were just straightforward. He said he wanted it to look a little more interesting.

“They gave me an idea of words that they wanted, but for the most part, they were just like, ‘We want words that convey a positive message,’ so I was just trying to think of words that you want to tell your kids when they are walking through the door,” he said. “We’re equal, we’re intelligent, we’re successful, stuff like that, those are the things that we want to tell them, so that’s how we came up with the concept.”

Work began July 11 and ended July 29, just in time for the school’s open house three days later and first day of school the next day. McIntosh was able to complete it despite taking a few days off from a surgery and still managing his tattoo business.

Reynolds said she’s happy with the finished product.

“To just really stand back and take it all in together, it was overwhelming in a good way,” she said. “It was just like, ‘Wow! We finally did something to make a mark.’ He’s unbelievably talented. He did a really great job. We were so excited that he wanted to do it. I was excited that we could help make it happen. It’s something that really makes a statement, and it’s something different for the kids to see every day.”

Reinhart, who is starting her second year as principal, said she initially wanted to update the furniture in the foyer. But once she saw how outdated the items on the wall were, she said it was time to remove that feel.

“We wanted the second you stepped into our school building to know that opportunities and possibilities exist,” she said. “I said to somebody (Sunday) the foyer needed love and inspiration, and those are the things that Kyle was able to make happen for us. His children attend here. He’s a parent. He is part of the community as owning a business. Who else would you want doing the work in your local school than somebody that involved?”

In the design process, McIntosh said it was impactful knowing his own kids — a son in the elementary and a daughter in the junior high — would be going to the school and seeing the mural every day.

“I really wanted to think from a personal vantage point, ‘What do I want my kid reading and being inspired by?’ Then also just people in the community that I know, kids in the community that I know seeing that same mural,” he said. “To me, I’ve done murals in different cities and towns and wherever, but this one right here is where I live, so the whole project was a little bit more personal.”

Reynolds said she has joked with McIntosh, saying, “We’ve got our foot in the door. What else are we going to paint?”

That, however, may be no joke. They already are looking at other opportunities for murals in the school.

“We use our hashtag #HearUsRoar. We do some student behavior stuff with the word ROAR, that acronym,” Reinhart said. “More than anything, it is yelling that we are proud of this school, of our students, of our families, of this community, so that’s going to be our next phase in the foyer of a big ‘Hear Us Roar’ thing. Stay tuned for Part 2.”