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Nearly 100 local students help paint mural at Cumming Fairgrounds
Fairgrounds Mural
Nearly 100 local students helped paint a new mural at the Cumming Fairgrounds on Thursday. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

It may be fall according to the calendar, but Thursday was a scorcher reaching more than 90 degrees. But the heat didn’t stop nearly 100 local students, along with artists from the area, from working on a new mural at the Cumming Fairgrounds that commemorates buildings, landmarks and life in the city of Cumming.

“Members of the Sawnee Association of the Arts, some students, some of our teachers have been coming out here off and on to work on it,” said Catherine Keyser, fine arts specialist for Forsyth County Schools.

“Today, with the help of the city, the fairgrounds staff and the Sawnee Association of the Arts, Black Dog Design House and teachers, we were able to make it a field trip experience for the kids, so we’ve had some of our schools be able to do it. We have almost 100 kids out here working on this, middle and high school.”

Artists were working to put the mural on a new concrete wall outside the fairgrounds, built as part of a pedestrian bridge from the fairgrounds to a parking lot.

The project left a large, blank space, which Mayor Troy Brumbalow contacted Sawnee Association of the Arts about to work on the mural.

In turn, SAA members contacted school officials and held a contest for students to design the mural.

“It’s absolutely awesome. It’s incredible,” Kris Straukas, with SAA. “It’s what the mayor wanted, and I think it’s a great learning experience for the kids too and the art classes. It’s been a learning experience for all of us that have been working on the mural because we’re not used to working in such large perspectives and such, so it’s been a learning curve for all of us.”

The winning design was by then-Otwell eighth-graders Matty Mabry and Ashlyn Mote, now freshmen at Forsyth Central High School.

They were among the students from a handful of schools present for the day of painting and said the final product wasn’t too different from their proposal.

“There is a majority of it that is the same, but they’ve changed some of the placement, which is understandable because it’s like 300 feet long and our design was only about half of it, so they stretched it out and added some things,” Mabry said. “For the most part, it’s still the same.”

Mote said both had been drawing “since we picked up pencils, pretty much” and thought it was interesting to see so many people working on the project.

“It’s really cool to see everything come together on such a large scale and have our art and everyone else’s art put out there,” she said.

M.J. David, with Black Dog Design House, a local design team, said she wasn’t an artist but a “cheerleader for the arts” and coordinated getting supplies and people together for the project.

After all the planning, she said it was great to see the work actually getting done.

“It’s been really cool because we’ve got our seasoned artists and then these up-and-coming new artists and just the meld of their talents has been really cool to watch,” David said.

Before the students came by, those driving down Castleberry Road may have seen some work done, mostly mountains, trees, a lake and other items and outlines for some of the buildings on the wall.

“It was mostly the SAA members that got all the buildings and everything sketched out, along with the courthouse and the statues, pier for the lake and everything,” Straukas said. “Now, we’re hoping the kids will fill all that space in.”

On Wednesday, kids were painting in animals, John Forsyth and other historical figures, school logos, local historic buildings like the Brannon-Heard House and more commemorating the history of the city and Forsyth County.

“It’s been a great experience for them to be a part of something that they for years can look at and go, ‘I was part of that,’ and it’s a huge piece for the community,” Keyser said. “We’ve got Chief Sawnee, the [Historic Cumming] Schoolhouse, the gazebo, the Sinclair Gas Station. It’s all the pieces that make the city unique.”