Mural Dream Becomes Reality at Perkins Elementary

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Fifth graders at Perkins Elementary School put the finishing touches on a mural they designed. The piece will be installed outside of the school’s front entrance.

It was one of those perfect Saturday mornings in Iowa, the kind where outdoor projects suddenly move to the top of the ‘to do’ list. Mowing the lawn. Planting a garden. Painting the house.

Such was the case for a group of 5th graders at Perkins Elementary School as they set out to work with brushes and paint cans in hand. But it wasn’t spring chores on the ‘to do’ lists of these students. Instead, it was creating what will be the latest piece of public art for Des Moines.

As parents helped organize two tables in the school courtyard – one a rainbow of painting supplies and the other a buffet of snacks and beverages – the young artists took to their canvass.

Under the creative eye of art teacher Mindi McCoy, the 5th grade class at Perkins this year added a school mural to the curriculum. The students created a design that depicts scenes from Perkins, the neighborhood and throughout the city. Working with Des Moines-based artist Molly Free, their design was transferred to a series of five 4’ x 8’ metal panels that will be installed near the school’s front entrance.

In addition to scenes from the community, the mural also includes words such as “Caring” and “Respect” and “Responsibility.” Principal Danny Koss explained that the mural project ties directly to Perkins being a pilot for the Schools for Rigor initiative, a district-wide effort that not only focuses on academic skills such as critical thinking and analysis but also creativity and the ability of students to work both independently and cooperatively.

Koss sounded a little wistful in talking about the project. Perhaps it’s because the 5th graders will soon be “graduating” from his school. Or perhaps it’s because creating something like this was a dream of his since taking the helm at Perkins nearly six years ago.

Dave Diers of Logan Contractors is one of the people who helped make the dream a reality. Wanting to see blank canvasses on buildings around the city become the site for art projects, he approached the City of Des Moines as well as a group of DMPS art teachers last year to see what might be possible. The first project was completed a year ago when students at Willard Elementary School created a mural on the side of the Fairgrounds Hardware store, across the street from the main entrance to the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Diers mentioned that Willard students are getting ready to begin work on their second art project in the neighborhood.

The project at Perkins was made possible thanks to the generous support of the school’s PTA as well as Chef’s Kitchen, Frahm Appraisals and Jordison Construction, all of whom provided financial assistance to help the students accomplish their goal of brightening up their school and the neighborhood.

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