In rural schools across the Ozarks, new permanent art installations provide sources of inspiration and encouragement to future students
Rural Schools Partnership
More than a Splash of Color
Larger-than-life critters from Ozarks ecosystems crawl and swim across the walls of the Buffalo Prairie Middle School library. Around the corner, student-penned verse flows in undulating waves above rows of lockers. Outside the gymnasium at Fair Grove Elementary, students proudly point to their miniature self-portraits among the hundreds that provide a rainbow’s array of diversity.
These vibrant displays are a few of the new murals recently produced through Placeworks. The Springfield Art Museum’s arts outreach program is a brilliant, colorful gem of the Rural Schools Partnership, primarily funded by the Louis L. and Julia Dorothy Coover Charitable Foundation’s Place-based Education grant program.
A new mural at Buffalo Prairie Middle School showcases the flora and fauna of several ecosystems unique to the Ozarks.
Throughout the school year, Placeworks dispatches teaching artists to rural schools across the CFO’s service area, providing arts-based education to supplement regular classroom curriculum like language arts or natural science. The programming typically concludes with a field trip to the art museum or other relevant destinations, like the Watershed Center or the Springfield Botanical Gardens at Nathanael Greene Park.
With a roster of teaching artists who specialize in public art, Placeworks is leading the creation of murals at a growing number of schools and currently have projects underway at Willard High School, Nevada Middle School, Strafford Elementary School and Cassville Middle School. These new murals, along with the existing installations, are unique to each school and are more than paint on walls, merely intended to liven up an otherwise drab hallway.
More than 400 students contributed to a new mural at Fair Grove Elementary School.
Fair Grove Elementary art teacher Ryan Seybert, center, worked with Placeworks teaching artists Cory Leick and Katherine Botts Whitaker to develop the new mural with her students.
Placeworks murals are dimensional collaborations, produced by students as they apply new creative and critical-thinking skills. These murals allow one generation of students to leave their mark, creating a permanent source of hometown pride. They inspire future classes by sharing words of encouragement and positivity. Perhaps most importantly, they stand as vivid monuments that every child can create something, that every student has ideas worth sharing.