Growing Strong: Art Project with the Bournedale School

I love to get out into the community to do projects, especially with kids. There is something so fun about working with children—their honesty, openness, creativity and innate wonder always impress me. I am honored to have received a grant from the Bourne Cultural Council and Kelly Burdge, an art teacher at the school, to create some mural magic with 120 children at the Bournedale School in my home state of Massachusetts.

I started with 12 feet of unstretched canvas on the floor of my studio in Brooklyn. I created a sprawling tree with calligraphic branches arcing up and across. I then painted soft knolls of grass, peppered with pink flowers.

I was asked by Mrs. Burdge to link the piece to education in some way. So I chose this one tiny mouse sitting in this huge world reading a book. (Stuart Little, of course.) Sometimes the tiniest details can be a portal or message to something much more grand.

The day went by so fast; with just five minutes between classes and each class only being 45 minutes, it was a hustle. I started each group with a brief talk about my work and what it is like to be an artist in New York City.

The children loved passing around paintings and asking me questions. I asked the children what their favorite colors were, and what they liked to paint—we had a lot of fun!

I then taught the children about repeated images and how to cut and use stencils. In shifts of about ten children at a time, they took turns stenciling almond-shaped leaves in several tones of green on the tree.

The children worked together on the mural, and when they weren’t painting the mural, I gave them the opportunity to make their own leaf-inspired artwork that they could take home with them.

The magical Fletcher Mckean came along for the trip to Cape Cod to help out; he (as always) was invaluable! We were totally outnumbered, and the extra set of eyes and hands was integral to the success of this project!

Next up was the most glamorous part of the project, glittering the moon. Everyone loves glitter! Especially moi! I always say, when in doubt, cover it in glue and throw glitter at it. That’s just what we did!

Everyone was so happy with the finished product. The little girl below points proudly to one of the stars she painted!


Mrs. Burdge, Fletcher, the children and I all worked as a team. Some students were just learning how to stencil for the first time and really enjoyed it. Giving children the opportunity to be artistic, to play with color and shapes, is so important.

I was so touched when I received a packet of over 100 of the best thank you notes ever! Below are just a few.

I believe keeping art in schools is incredibly important. On a very personal level, art was always the class I looked forward to and where I could really shine. This was a very special project that I will remember forever—a true pleasure to be a part of. I encourage everyone to get out there and do something! Or just ask me to come over! I have brushes and will travel.

This project was made possible by a grant provided by the generosity of the Bourne Cultural Council and Kelly Burdge’s hard work and vision. Paint your world beautiful or let me help.


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    Sam – simply awesome. You can see the glee and satisfaction as the children add their own leaves and stars! I bet everytime they pass it they will search out their piece and tell their freinds – great idea!

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    Wow this is great. I am not an asrtist but htis acutally makes me want to try somethinglike this for my playroom. Hmm if ti doesn;t work out will you come to my house and teach both m and my son how to do something like this. PS how was the frame for this project made? I lvoe this idea.

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    Awww.. Those notes from the kids are just so sweet! It’s clear they had a lot of fun painting with you!

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    Another nice project for the community, Sam. Hope to read about more projects like this one in the future.

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    I have to agree with Claudia there, those glasses are to die for. But seriously, I really would love to have more schools do this type of activity!

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