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Doing as she teaches – Chestatee Elementary art teacher filling school with her work

Julie Hubbard sat cross-legged on the floor of Chestatee Elementary School’s media center, hand steady as she painted around swamp creatures and wetland plants.

With every new brush stroke, the words “Okefenokee Swamp” began to appear on the wall, their navy lettering contrasted against the light blue background Hubbard had painted.

Instead of spending her summer months away from school as other educators may be eager to do, the Forsyth County art teacher has frequented her home school’s media room and the halls of Cumming Elementary the last several months, working on “summer surprises” for county students.

“Last year, I painted the bathrooms in [Chestatee] and the kids loved it,” she said. “There have been lots of art surprises for the students, and the Media Center is this year’s surprise.”

Hubbard, who has taught art at several Forsyth County schools for 22 years, said this year’s project came about thanks to an idea Chestatee’s media specialist, Sarah Wiggins, had for the room.

“She wanted it to be areas of Georgia, so I thought to draw various symbols on the walls,” she said. “Symbols are going to imprint [Georgia] history in the students’ minds, but it was Sarah’s vision of adding the top regions in the state to the media center.

“I worked through the month of June, but it’s not finished yet – more will be added to mural. The kids are actually going to be a part of the next stage; I’ll have them write submissions of things in Georgia they’d like to see added in, and this is going to give them the opportunity to have a voice in what will come next to the mural.”

Hubbard said while she painted her first mural for FCS in 1996 at Mashburn Elementary, her love of art started much earlier.

“Since I was a small child, I’ve been creative and loved to draw and when I was young, I would go to this woman’s house who gave art lessons,” she said. “Once a week, I would go there and she was my inspiration since I was a small child.

“I’ve always known I wanted to do something in art and I love kids, so wanting to teach art has always been in me.”

In addition to painting summer murals for schools, Hubbard said she holds an art camp that is very similar to what her childhood mentor would do with local children.

She also does mural work in people’s homes, as well as personalized canvases, hand painted plates and tiles “just as a way to throw out some creativity.”

“It’s amazing all of different places she’s impacted the community,” Wiggins said. “She has such a strong, rich history and is just adding to her history with her artwork. As an art teacher, she’s also passing that on to the next generation, and it’s just amazing.

“The rich art that she’s giving our community is unmatched.”

Hubbard said her work accomplishes more than just teaching students artistic techniques, though.

From the Georgia symbols to a U.S. history timeline she’s been working with Chestatee’s gifted education teacher, she’s also giving students visual history lessons.

She’s not only part of the history of our community, but she’s creating history in our community.
Sarah Wiggins, media specialist, Chestatee Elementary

Wiggins said it’s more than that, too.

“She’s not only part of the history of our community, but she’s creating history in our community,” she said. “You can just name a family and they’ve got her stuff hanging in their homes.

“She’s just such a part of [Forsyth County] – it’s amazing.”

Though she has almost a decade before retirement, Hubbard said she hopes to always continue making art.

“I’ve always had the dream to illustrate a children’s book,” she said. “I don’t have the time now, but maybe when I retire.

“Art is just my whole life. I love it.”