Students at Sunnyside Elementary don’t have to go far to get a sense of just how far they can go.
With just a step inside the school’s library, they can picture themselves reaching all kinds of new heights – in a hot-air balloon drifting towards a rainbow, in a plane gliding above the mountains or on a rocket ship headed for the stars.
The mural that captures it all was months in the making; a collaborative effort built around Dr. Seuss’ <i>Oh, the places you’ll go!<i> and aimed at inspiring students both to dream big and consider art’s place in their lives.
The goal was to create “something that speaks to the school community,” principal Faizel Rawji said.
Rawji reached out to Maple Ridge artist Jason Craft in September, shortly after taking the helm of the South Surrey school.
The design process took about three months. Craft – who has been painting murals in schools for the past 12 years – wrapped up the bulk of the Sunnyside work on Wednesday (he will be adding silhouettes of students to the library’s west-facing windows in the near future). It will be unveiled to the students class by class starting this week.
Rawji described the mural as “a real legacy project for us.”
He said having Craft work while school was in session gave students the opportunity to interact with the artist, as well as a sense of how much work goes into creating something worthwhile.
“The thought and the detail is really good for kids to know,” Rawji said. “If they don’t get that piece, they won’t know what real work is.”
Craft, who grew up in Surrey, describes his work as “a labour of love” that he hopes inspires students to get into art.
“I discovered my passion for it when I was in elementary school,” he said, recalling catching the bug in Grade 5, during a quest to learn how to draw Star Wars characters.
“I would just draw constantly. It was neat – in school, it’s kind of the thing I was known for.”
Craft’s work graces the walls of countless elementary and high schools – including the South Surrey/White Rock Learning Centre – in multiple school districts.
At Sunnyside, which opened at 2828 159 St. in the fall of 2013, “it brings some identity to the school.”
“The students, they’re really proud of their environment,” Craft said.
Librarian Sandi Sodhi said the inconvenience of working around the mural – hosting students in cramped corners of the temporarily cluttered library – has been well worth it.
“You better believe it,” she told Rawji.
“It’s absolutely stunning – and all the compliments from the kids. They want to come in here.”