Brett Vaughn, Principal at Stone Academy, began her tenure at the school on the day the third edition of the Stone Mural Project was revealed.
On Wednesday, she celebrated 365 days with the school at a ribbon cutting for the fourth mural.
The mural, a black and white piece depicting the life cycle of South Carolina’s state butterfly, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, was designed by local artist Sunny Mullarkey McGowan. It reads “every day is a new beginning” in honor of Vaughn’s start at the school.
“This has been a great way to bookend my first year here,” Vaughn said ahead of the ribbon cutting.
The mural was painted on a wall outside of Hammack Law Firm by more than 100 Stone Academy fifth graders alongside Furman University students. Though it contains very little color, the project actually includes three shades — each of black, gray and white to create depth.
McGowan was asked two years ago to be an artist with the project. She has children who attend the school. As part of the project, she did a residency at the school during which she taught children about printmaking.
“It was amazing. It was so nice,” McGowan said. “I walked through our process of where I carved each print, how I designed it and the thought that I put into it to printing it to gridding it and scaling it to the wall. They were very involved and very understanding of it.”
For students at Stone Academy, the mural project has become a rite of passage.
Mary Bruccoliere remembers seeing older classes create their own.
“I think it was really cool that we get to do this and since we’re an art school it’s really nice, and it was really good experience for us,” Bruccoliere said.
For the second year, Stone Academy students enlisted the help of a Furman University May ex class.
May ex, short for May experience, is Furman’s name for Maymester courses. Students are encouraged to use the classes as a chance to step out of their comfort zones.
McCay Mathis, a rising senior psychology major at Furman, had never taken a college art class. She said she signed up for this course to try something new, and she knew she’d get an opportunity to work with local kids.
“I love Greenville,” Mathis said. “I’m from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Being able to have a piece of public art that I’ve worked on with the kids in Greenville is special to me.”
The Furman students spent two weeks working on the mural. Each was assigned a specific section to paint. Some of that time was spent painting alongside an assigned fifth grade partner.
Mathis said she appreciated the opportunity to really get to know a kid in the community that she considers her home away from home. She hopes the fifth graders will take something meaningful from the experience.
“The art that’s going to be here for a long time is super cool,” Mathis said. “They get to have their hand in that, but I also hope they take away the chance to build relationships with people they wouldn’t have normally met.”
The Stone Mural Project is a multi-year project supported by the City of Greenville’s Art in Public Places commission, local businesses, Stone Academy and other members of the community.
As for the inspiration behind the project, Stephanie Burnette, Chair of the Stone Mural Project committee, said they wanted to make the Stone Avenue corridor Greenville’s public art space.
“For people walking their dogs, running or driving by, We hope this gives them a moment of the unexpected,” Burnette said. “It’s art and you didn’t have to go to Artisphere or a festival or a museum to find it.”
Now, it’s on to the next one. There are eight murals left in the 12 year project. Burnette said the group already has lined up artists to lead the next four Stone Avenue murals.