Colin Powell Academy Students Soar to Success Through the Power of Painting

Photos by Scott Nichols of Sickboat Creative Studios.

In a partnership between the Long Beach Unified School District’s Colin Powell Academy, Long Beach-based trio of professional muralists, The Draculas—comprised of Jeff McMillan, Gary Musgrave and Jake Kazakos—and the Arts Council for Long Beach, a brand new mural of the school’s mascot, a bald eagle, now serves as a symbol of encouragement to students.

The project to upgrade the school’s feathered mascot through the painting of a mural, titled “Soaring to Success”, was spearheaded by 6th grade teacher Erin Villegas. Students, school staff and muralists participated in the week-long experience, bringing to life the bald eagle representing the school’s values: respect, honor, courage, leadership and integrity.

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“With the school and this particular project it was important for us to give back,” said McMillan. “Gary, Jake and myself are all teachers so it was a pretty rewarding experience to collaborate with the students and allow them to own a piece of this mural. You can tell there’s a lot of pride involved when these students walk by this mural everyday and know that they helped make it happen and they are now a piece of this school’s history.”

A video by local independent filmmaker, Scott Nichols, captured that pride through interviews with several of the students who helped paint the eagle. The students voiced how art brings people together despite their differences, saying “there’s nothing but love and positivity about art.” With the promotion of the project, organizers hope to spark a conversation about bringing public art to more schools as a method to “building camaraderie and school spirit.”

“I wanted the students to make their own choices of color and placement because in the end it’s all freedom of expression and we really encouraged them to think outside of the box,” McMillan said. “Pretty much paint what you feel not what you know and they did just that. This project morphed everyday into a more meaningful experience for us.”

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist. She was recently awarded first place in writing by the California News Publisher Association for her profile on local artist Narsiso Martinez.
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