New mural at Fraser Elementary celebrates diversity, nature |

New mural at Fraser Elementary celebrates diversity, nature

The completed mural at Fraser Elementary.
Courtesy / Eric Vandernail

FRASER — When the temperatures begin to cool, the leaves begin to turn and children begin school again, they will encounter some new faces at the Fraser Valley Elementary playground. The new faces are part of a larger mural added to the playground last week as part of an overall upgrade to the outdoor space.

The mural was commissioned by the Fraser Public Arts Committee after receiving a grant application from Diane Jacobsen, a preschool teacher at Fraser Valley Elementary. It was painted by Emanuel Martinez, a Denver artist known for his murals and outreach work with at-risk youth.

The focus of the mural is a celebration of diversity and the natural beauty of the area. Jacobsen said she wanted to expose the students to more art and use the mural as an educational tool.

“I hope it makes people think about what a beautiful place we live in and what a diverse school we have and that’s what makes our school wonderful is how diverse we are,” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen received a $1,000 grant from the arts committee and a matching grant from Mountain Parks Electric to pay for the mural. Eric Vandernail, a member of the arts committee, said the committee felt the design concept for the mural was a good opportunity to showcase Martinez’s vibrant style.

“The Public Arts Committee is trying to bring more arts and culture to the community,” Vandernail said. “It’s really nice to educate people about art and bring art into the community more. I’m really looking forward to kids playing out there and enjoying (the mural).”

The mural is the first step in a larger project to update the playground that Jacobsen is working on. She hopes to move the playground away from more traditional structures and add more art and STEM features, as well as bringing in natural elements.

For this part of the project, Jacobsen received a $5,000 grant from Early Childhood Health Outdoors, a program of the National Wildlife Federation.

“What we know about these more naturalized settings, as opposed to man-made structures for kids outdoor play, we know that it produces better outcomes for kids, that kids are more creative, more critical thinkers and problem solving skills increase dramatically,” Jacobsen said. “My job is to build that foundation for, not only kids to be good students, but amazing people.”

Jacobsen expects this to be a multi-year project, but ultimately hopes to have a space the whole school can utilize, including features like an outdoor classroom, an art area, a magnet wall and garden space.

“It will be a place that is very aesthetically beautiful, but also will enhance learning for all ages,” she said. “I can’t wait to build my playground design around (the mural). One of the things I want to do is build a deck right up to it so that it becomes the backdrop for the outdoor classroom space. I’m excited to see how it moves the design for the rest of the playground.”

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