When Misha Smart describes the newest mural that hangs in the library of the James Bay Community School, her eyes light up.
The colourful artwork features three panels and depicts a number of class activities, such as students hatching chicks or butterflies, the school’s recycling program, and horse-drawn carriages, which often pass by the school on Oswego Street and students playing hockey and basketball. It also depicts students playing on the beach, which is representative of the school’s coastal kindergarten program.
The newly-created mural represents the school’s values and the important things that make it unique, from the perspective of teachers, staff and students.
“It’s just those little things that the kids really identify with and take ownership over,” said Smart, a Fairfield artist and kindergarten teacher at the school who helped facilitate the project.
A professional artist for the past eight years, Smart was approached by the school’s Parent Advisory Committee in September to create a complement to the school’s existing mural. That iconic piece features the James Bay and downtown communities, including the legislature, Clover Point and Emily Carr House.
Smart has done similar collaborations with other area elementary schools including View Royal, Victoria West and Strawberry Vale.
Over the past 10 months, she collaborated with students, staff, and teachers at James Bay to identify themes representing the school’s values. Smart then transformed those values into a visual representation and students from kindergarten to Grade 5 used acrylics to paint the mural.
“They always remember what piece of the mural they painted, how they contributed,” she said. “They really take a lot of pride in it, because it’s about their school and their community … that’s what makes it so special.”
Smart added that students don’t receive many fine arts opportunities such as this on a larger scale.
“It’s inspiring to see them so proud of what they’ve done and really taking the next step. You see them asking their families to do something similar. They realize their capacity [for working] in the large scale and working with different materials. It’s exciting to see them to engaged in this art project that is so important to our school,” she said.