West Leesville Elementary getting Louisiana-themed mural

By Emily Burleigh

By the end of the school year, West Leesville Elementary School will be adorned with a Louisiana-themed mural highlighting the flora and fauna of the state.

This project is being spearheaded by GALLERY ONE ELLLEVEN – an art gallery housed in Leesville. The gallery received an $8,000 grant from the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism (CRT) for the mural.

The grant funding comes from the CRT Louisiana Percent for Art Program.

Gallery Coordinator Tony McDonald said West Leesville Elementary was chosen for the project because of its proximity to the Leesville Art Park. The park is often used by the school for curriculum supplementation and extra-curriculars.

The school and the park already have an existing partnership and this mural is expected to deepen that bond. It is important to those at the gallery to nurture an appreciation for the arts in local elementary students.

This practice bolsters every aspect of a student’s education and deepens their ability to succeed in intersectional studies, McDonald explained.

“Exposing the students to the arts is not only vital in itself, but it opens up discussions with students in disciplines that are not the arts, but have creative and art components embedded in their structure, such as social studies, history, math and literature.”

Sen. Mike Reese (R-Leesville) commended the gallery in a release for their efforts to supplement local students’ educations.

“I’m thankful for GALLERY ONE ELLLEVEN always pursuing every opportunity to expose more students to the arts. This is a great partnership between the state, students and local artists. I look forward to seeing the finished product.”

The mural will be painted by a Louisiana artist with the assistance of the students. McDonald said that GALLERY ONE ELLEVEN responded to a “Call to Artists” in August 2023 to find the right artist for the job. Liz Cornett of Forest Hill was chosen.

She is an experienced muralist who has work displayed throughout Central Louisiana, in Alexandria and private homes.

The theme of the mural is “Louisiana Wildflowers and Creatures.” A group of students will be chosen to work alongside her. They will follow a lesson plan prepared by CRT that guides them through the design process and educates them on Louisiana history and the importance of art in public spaces, McDonald said.

The success of this mural could open up the door for future public art projects in Vernon Parish.

“It is our hope that if this project is successful and other grants are available, we can work with other schools in the parish in this manner,” he said.

Later this month, the chosen students will begin working with Cornett on the mural.

The 10-foot by 30-foot mural will be on the north end of Building B, facing the front of the school and bus loading area. The project is set to be completed by May 15.

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