An inspiring mural greets kids going back to school

We all know words matter: They can inspire, uplift, and turn a day completely around. Hallmark Lettering Artists Lynn G., Barb M., and Livy L. spend their days interpreting messages from our Creative Writing Studio on greeting cards—recently, they matched their talents with ideas from local elementary school students to create an inspirational mural.  

Hallmark artists prepping an inspiring mural at a local elementary school

How can positive words help change the world? That question from this year’s Creative Leadership Symposium prompted us to start an inspirational mural project. We partnered with Cora S., Hallmark’s community involvement director, to find a wall to paint. The perfect opportunity was just four blocks away at Longfellow Elementary School, with plenty of bare interior walls and an enthusiastic principal who welcomed the idea.

Hallmark artist checking progress on an inspiring mural at a local elementary school

We knew the words needed to be authentic—so the writing studio hosted a workshop for fifth graders. They gave the kids writing prompts: “What do you tell yourself when you’re trying to achieve a goal?” and “What message do you wish everyone in your school could see as they’re walking down the hall?”

Lots of good ideas and words later, one of the kids summed it up: Follow your heart and reach for the stars.

Hallmark artists painting an inspiring mural at a local elementary school

Livy took the quote and started sketching, knowing the kids would see this mural every day as they came up the stairs to their classrooms. After several rough drafts, she decided to keep it simple and bold like the words themselves. The quote sits within an energetic banner, surrounded by graphic hands that reach up to grab stars. There’s also a small, non-traditional rainbow sweeping behind the banner on the right side for added fun and as a symbol of hope and positivity. Livy worked with the school colors, using shades of blue and gold to fill out the design, along with accents of turquoise and bright yellow.

Hallmark artists painting an inspiring mural at a local elementary school

Meanwhile, lots of research was happening. Because we had limited experience painting murals, we tapped into friends inside and outside of Hallmark for the latest techniques. We ended up having 10 more people come help us over four days.

The final inspiring mural at Longfellow Elementary School.

The magical moment—when everything was finally cleaned up, step stools and tarps put away—was seeing the completed mural. It is a marvelous bright spot that will greet the kids when they come back to school. Dr. Jimmie Bullard, principal at Longfellow, wrote a thank-you note to the team that said in part, “This mural will provide our students with renewed hope and purpose, that people really do care about them. It represents a fresh start and a new beginning for our students, parents, and staff. This mural is now a part of the Longfellow Family history and will be a constant reminder to everyone who views it to Follow their Heart and Reach for the Stars!

We love hearing about the ways you use your creativity to change the world. (More on that here.) Share your stories in the comments, on Facebook or on Instagram at @think.make.share.


Leave a Comment

  1. 1.30.20 | Reply
    Vanessa Reese wrote:

    I love this. I love in the Kansas City area and just received a grant to help beautify the inside of a neighborhood elementary school. We plan to paint a mural or two and I was hoping you could share any advice on what supplies worked best for you and any other helpful tips.

    Thanks so much,
    Vanessa Reese

    • 1.30.20 | Reply
      Trish B. wrote:

      What a great question! We’re sending a query out to our mural painters, and will get right back to you!

    • 1.31.20 | Reply
      Kelly C. wrote:

      Hi Vanessa!

      Artist Livy L. says—”We really tried to simplify our palette so we had less open cans of paint colors hanging around. It kept our mess and expense a little bit lower.We made sure we had a variety of brush sizes – so we could efficiently cover larger areas and still get into tiny detail corners. And – most importantly – we invited friends to help!”

      Artist Lynn G. says—”Our wall was in pretty good shape before we started—so we did not have to prime it or fix any parts of it. I think we washed it down first. We used Sherwin Williams paint. We had the ability to blow up our sketch to actual size, then we used pencils to put down graphite on the back side, taped it up to the wall, drew over it to lay down our pencil sketch to follow. You can also use a projector—depending on how big and where your space is. You have to contend with distortion when you project. We painted light colors to dark…and we mostly used varying sizes of brushes that we got at the hardware store, with a few smaller artists brushes to get small crisp edges. Take lots of pictures along the way so that you can document the progress!”

      Artist Allie S. says—”You can also print out your design and draw a grid over it and then grid out your wall to transfer if you don’t have access to a projector. The people at the paint store recommend a durable paint that would hold up well, especially if the mural is in a school/environment where kids might touch it.”

      Hope this helps!