By Kathy Chouteau
Richmond’s Verde Elementary unveiled a vibrant new mural this month with the inspirational title, “Reaching for the Stars.” Although, due to the pandemic, the students didn’t have a hand in painting it, they did play a major role in its conception before transitioning to remote schooling.
The mural, which adorns the exterior front entrance to the school, was made possible through a $7,200 Neighborhood Public Art Grant from the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission. Work kicked off in January 2020 and the project was completed earlier this month.
“It’s this idea that they’re working with students to reach their maximum potential,” said Yvonne Rogers about the mural’s theme. Rogers works as an unconditional education coach from the Seneca Family of Agencies, which partners with Verde on student support.
Before the shelter-in-place order, muralist Fred Alvarado conducted in-classroom sessions with Verde students to gather their ideas for the mural. When the pandemic struck, Alvarado had his own team of workers help him paint and finish the mural under the leadership and active involvement of school Principal Eric Acosta-Verprauskus.
“I think we’re really hopeful that, when we do come back, it will be the first thing that students see…that they’ll see this and remember this was made for them, through them, because of them—[to] set the tone for how to enter the world,” said Rogers.
According to Rogers, the Reaching for the Stars mural is the second in what they hope will be a series of three murals funded by Richmond Arts & Culture Commission grants at the school. With the first mural, “Bridging the Gap,” and second mural completed, Verde is currently awaiting word on whether or not they’ll receive funding for their third mural, “To the Moon and Back.” The third mural is conceived to be a smaller, indoor one in a school hallway; pending funding, it will be completed in 2021 by Alvarado.
Rogers noted that her colleague from Seneca and predecessor at the school, Anna Scaiano, was also instrumental in working on the first and second murals before going on maternity leave.
In an effort to strengthen Verde’s vision and mission for the school, Principal Acosta-Verprauskus has arranged to have t-shirts with the new mural printed on them for teachers and students, per Rogers. They’ll be receiving their gifts this week—a small token to help build community from a distance while they await their opportunity to return to school in-person.
“It belongs to everybody, and everybody had a part,” said Rogers about Verde’s mural.