GREEN BAY (NBC26) — Howe Elementary School's newest mural is a reflection of its students... literally. The mural depicts portraits of ten Howe Elementary students surrounded by positive affirmations such as "I am resilient" and "I can overcome".
The idea for the mural began when Howe Elementary partnered with Leadership Green Bay to incorporate more diversity into its reading material.
"They titled the project 'books for a better tomorrow' and really it was all around as a school how we could get more culturally authentic and relevant literature for our students," said Amy Kallioinen, the principal at Howe Elementary.
But as they worked on the project, Kallioinen says the school didn't want to stop with just literature.
"We thought all of our kids should be able to come into the school and see themselves reflected in the surroundings and see themselves when they look around the school," Kallioinen said.
That's when the school contacted local muralist Beau Thomas. Thomas first began painting as a graffiti artist.
"I've been painting for about 15 years now," Thomas said. "I started as a graffiti artist painting on bridges and trains and after a few court cases I turned it into a business. I'm pretty lucky to go around the city and paint on buildings that I used to get in trouble for."
He says his business, Trackside Design LLC, started by accident.
"A college professor had us design a business just for a class project and I took that seriously," Thomas said. "I ended up with my company, Trackside Design, kind of referencing my old days on the train tracks."
The mural at Howe Elementary School is the latest addition to his murals around Green Bay. He says the project took six months from start to finish.
"Hopefully it brightens up the space for them," Thomas said.
Kallioinen says the students are overjoyed to see themselves and their classmates depicted in the mural now that it's completed.
"They loved it. Especially the kids that are in it are so proud," Kallioinen said. "We've had the opportunity to take pictures of the kids next to it and the resemblance is uncanny. He did such an amazing job. They're so realistic and the kids are so proud."