In the outdoor recreation area of St. Brigid School, a giant bear in a Hawaiian shirt rides a red bicycle. Next to him, two penguins — one with a bow tie and the other wearing a string of pearls — waddle hand in hand (flipper in flipper?).
A few feet away, a dog sporting green sunglasses knocks a basketball into the air with its head. A monkey climbs on the back of a crown-wearing lion, not to mention a rabbit with red sneakers and top-hatted turtle proudly marching along together. And in the center of it all, an owl takes flight with the words, “We have heart.”
The friendly animals are now part of the school day for the more than 250 kindergarten through eighth-grade students who attend the 126-year-old Catholic institution. They are the creation of Academy of Art University students who painted the characters this fall on a 66-foot-long mural along an outdoor concrete wall.
The mural, “The Animal Race,” depicts a magical scene of creatures that move at a different pace, intended to symbolize that everyone should move at their own speed. Four students from the Academy of Art worked on the mural Mondays and Thursdays beginning in September, and finished the project last week.
“On the very first day, when the students were sketching the drawings, a first-grader came to me and said, 'Sister, I do not understand why to draw the picture is going to take them so long,'” Sister Angeles Marin, principal of St. Brigid School, said Thursday at a ceremony to celebrate the mural.
“The time has passed, and the final product is in front of us. We can all enjoy it,” she said.
Monsignor John Talesfore, pastor of St. Mary's Cathedral, said a prayer and blessed the mural with holy water.
Sister Judy Cunningham attributed the lack of rain at the event following storms earlier in the week to Sister Mary Jo Wise, a longtime instructor who died in May, and to whom the mural is dedicated.
“I believe that Sister Mary Jo is present here and watching over all of us,” Cunningham said.
The concept of the mural came about prior to Wise's death, but after she died, an owl was added — Wise's favorite animal — school officials said. The owl holds the only words on the mural, “We have heart,” the motto of St. Brigid School.
Academy of Art student Kenneth Malone, 27, came up with the idea for the mural while working at a Tiki bar. He thought to put a Hawaiian shirt on a bear, and the rest spilled out.
“I just started putting different animals together,” Malone said. “I wanted something real lively.”
Timothy Andrews, 27, another mural painter, said he particularly loved sharing his painting experience with the St. Brigid School students, who would come up to the artists and ask questions.
“It helps keep it fresh when [the kids] get really excited about seeing something that looks not finished to you but to them it looks amazing,” Andrews explained.
Widely considered the biggest fan of the artists' work was 8-year-old Sedona Famous, who even earned an honorary art director title. The third-grade student, whose favorite subject in school is art, never hesitated to give the artists advice.
“Sometimes it was like the lion's crown was yellow, and I said it needs to be more gold,” Sedona said. “Also, sometimes the dots were missing on some things.”
The mural, which would have cost about $90,000, was provided to St. Brigid School at no cost. The Academy donated supplies, and M J Scaffolding provided equipment as well.