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Ivywild ceramic tile and mural creator continues to beautify Colorado Springs schools

May 28, 2018 Updated: May 28, 2018 at 12:50 pm
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Sixth-grader Erikka Williams adds her painted handprint to the pillar at the bottom of the stairs leading to the music classrooms at North Middle School as seventh-grader Becca Frazer and the school's community liaison Marilyn Eggleston watch Tuesday, May 22, 2018. The school's Leadership Club painted the lower walls of the staircase to brighten the Colorado Springs school. Eggleston, who worked at Ivywild School for 26 years until it closed in 2009, was responsible for the student murals in the bathrooms of the 1916 school that is now home to Bristol Brewery and Pub and, the Principal's Office and other businesses. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Marilyn Eggleston never dreamed that the colorful ceramic tiles and eye-catching murals that she and Ivywild Elementary School students created would be seen decades later by thousands of people every week.

"I did it for the kids," Eggleston said. "It's really unique to the building."

Today, the educational artwork is an iconic part of Ivywild, which was converted into a brewpub, restaurant and neighborhood gathering place. And Eggleston has been elevated to local celebrity status.

Becca Frazer, a seventh-grader at North Middle School, went to look at the bathroom mosaics and hallway murals after Eggleston talked to North students about the project, which started in the mid-1980s and took years to complete.

"I think they bring the whole place to life," Becca said.

Student artist Julia Rapp signs her name below her handprint Tuesday, May 22, 2018, at North Middle School. Students in the Leadership Club spent the last month painting a mural in the lower staircase leading to school’s music rooms and added their handprints and signatures as the final chapter to their work. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Student artist Julia Rapp signs her name below her handprint Tuesday, May 22, 2018, at North Middle School. Students in the Leadership Club spent the last month painting a mural in the lower staircase leading to school’s music rooms and added their handprints and signatures as the final chapter to their work. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

A bit of color makes the world a lot brighter, in Eggleston's mind. Throughout her 36-year teaching career, she's made sure students understand that concept.

"There's a lot of stark walls in here," she said last week, walking through North, a stately school that opened in 1924 as part of Colorado Springs School District 11.

But Eggleston is helping to turn stark into stunning.

In the final days of the school year, she and about 20 students are finishing murals on the walls of the stairway leading to the second-floor music classrooms.

The students are in the Leadership Team that Eggleston and a former assistant principal formed in 2012 for kids who aren't necessarily high achievers but want to develop leadership skills.

Eggleston was not trained to be an art teacher. She's a hobbyist who was working as a community liaison at Ivywild and stumbled into teaching.

"We didn't have enough staff for an art teacher, so I taught art there for many years," she said.

Her beautification of Ivywild started in 1984, when she added a few elves outside the school.

When the principal came back from a science curriculum meeting, he said: "We need to teach science, even if we paint it on the walls in the bathroom."

Eggleston was off and running. The process of hand-pressing each tile, firing and laying them took 120 hours per bathroom, she said.

Several former students told her they've gone back to find their handprints on the "Kids around the world" mural in one hallway.

Becca said she wants to return to North in a decade or so and look at her handicraft.

"We've left our mark," she said.

Eggleston works hard to ensure that the art looks professional.

at North Middle School. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
at North Middle School. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

"I say to kids, 'When you come back in 10 or 15 years, you're going to be proud of what you did.' We don't do junk. We do something of quality."

North's new murals include a "note tree," a branch with musical notes created with stencils. That took three days, Eggleston said.

Becca painted a bright songbird on another wall and wrote, "Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life," a quote by Berthold Auerbach.

"I really like art and music, so this was a good combination," she said. "It brightens up the school."

Elsewhere, a large piano keyboard runs vertically; hand-drawn musical instruments adorn an entire wall; and a narrow strip of students' handprints has their names below.

Shades of blues and greens in the background complement the warmth of the musical instruments, Eggleston said.

"It's cool," said sixth-grader Sadie Cipiti, who worked on several sections. "Some people didn't know much about music or art, so we learned some things."

Good, Eggleston said. The project was meant to be educational as well as fun.

As the community liaison at North, she provides at-risk students with school supplies, socks, food, clothes and other needs. After school, she heads the Leadership Team, fundraisers and activities such as the murals.

Without the paintings, said North Principal Chris Kilroy, the school would look industrial.

"The quality of the murals is pretty extraordinary," Kilroy said. "They're all done on her own time to make the school better."

Becca and Sadie said they plan to work on more murals next year. Eggleston said she's thinking about starting an after-school murals club.

"We're in an age where murals are becoming more part of a neighborhood culture," she said. "It just makes you feel good."

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