By Emanuel Pena
Barling Elementary School unveiled a priceless addition to its school campus Friday, Sept. 1 —a mural painted by Kevin Arnold, a former Barling Elementary student who currently works as a successful artist.
The mural represents various themes prompted by students, teachers and the artist himself.
Arnold felt purposeful coming back to Barling to create the mural.
“There was a certain amount of nostalgia wandering through this place where I spent my early formative years… the same place my kindergarten teacher first informed my parents that they should start encouraging me in my art,” Arnold said.
Influenced by the New American art movement, Arnold was eager to collaborate with the elementary school students, perhaps hoping to encourage students to believe in their own art.
Arnold admits this is his first collaboration with young artists, but he welcomed the challenge of making their vision a reality on the canvas.
Although not every piece of student-submitted art made it into the mural, Arnold feels “the entire student body kind of served as the directors of the piece.” As the artist, Arnold’s job was “to make them look good,” he said.
As all of its students know, the Barling Elementary School motto is P.R.I.D.E. — Politeness, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, Excellence. Students kept this in mind when creating what they thought should go on the mural.
“I liked it,” fifth-grader Lauren LaClair remarked upon seeing the mural. Another student said the mural reminded them of “a family.”
Parts of the mural are blank. This was a conscious decision by the artist so future students could provide their own input on what the artist needs to add to the mural to best represent the elementary school.
Arnold will certainly come back to Barling to maintain the piece.
“The whole experience was so rewarding, and I hope the mural continues to spark the imagination in students for years to come,” he said.