Characters from the “Leaders for Life” posters and classrooms resources have become larger than life on the walls of Hopewell Elementary School’s cafeteria.
Behind the colorful mural is local artist Hollye Kile.
“Since first grade that’s all I wanted to do was be an artist,” Kile said. “I took every art class that was available then.”
Leadership murals of some kind are springing up in elementary schools across the system. Kile said she has completed several and is talking to more principals about bringing Indigo Crow and the Leader Ship to their school walls.
“Everybody’s interested. I just haven’t gotten to everybody yet,” Kile said.
Yet, Kile was brightening school walls long before supervisor for elementary education Sheena Newman developed the “Leaders for Life” program.
Principals often commission Kile to paint a mural for the cafeteria or a hallway.
“I’ll ask them if they have any ideas, and if they don’t it’s left up to me to find something that will work for their school,” Kile said. “I try to make it all different.”
Kile tries to incorporate the school’s mascot whenever possible.
At Hopewell, their tiger mascot can be seen going for a swim near a waterfall and steering the S.S. Leader Ship.
“Each school has a different them,” Kile said.
Each school mural starts with a sketch.
“That way I can usually tell them what it’s going to cost,” Kile said. “I also help them figure out ways that we can raise the money to help through sponsors and that type thing.”
Painting people in her mural is harder than painting animals, she said.
At Prospect Elementary School, Santek Environmental sponsored a mural that highlights recycling.
Larger projects such as cafeteria murals are finished in stages.
“And that’s great because it keeps it fresh for the kids,” Kile said.
Kile said she enjoys having the students watch her while she works. Often the students will make suggestions and ask questions.
“I always try to do it during school hours when they can watch,” Kile said. “Unless it’s a cafeteria or a gym ... that gets kind of hard. I’ve done gyms before with kids in it, but that gets challenging sometimes.”
She said students relate to the mascots.
Kile painted her first mural for a school about 15 years ago.
“I started at Taylor Elementary School. A teacher approached me ... and she said my school needs something in the cafeteria and my principal wants you to come take a look at it. He wanted to go around the world, so we did.”
Her next mural was for Bradley Central High School.
One wall usually takes her about a week.
Kile tries to capture the personality of the person she is painting for.
“I like bright colors because the kids identify with bright, elementary colors,” Kile said.
Painting a school mural takes stamina, Kile said.
“It’s the up and down on the ladder. The reach you have to have ... you have to stay in shape,” Kile said.
Speed is also a component to ensure the color is consistent when mixing colors to create different shades. Also, it has to be used before it dries, she said.
“People don’t realize how much effort it takes when you are working on that size of a span.”
Her sketch drawing usually follows the scale of one inch being equal to one foot.
“If I’ve got 22 feet, I’ve got a 22-inch paper,” Kile said.
Many times students are surprised that math is involved in Kile’s work.
Kile’s school murals are special to her because she attended Bradley County Schools.
“I never thought I would be painting in my school walls,” Kile said.
Kile said she enjoys painting murals of animals because animals are “a big part of my life.”
Kile owns a farm with miniature donkeys, horses, goats and other animals.
“I’m an animal lover,” Kile said.