Kathy Rector
Special to The Record

While other students spend their summer free time vacationing, splashing in pools, shopping at the mall, or just being couch potatoes, Little Cypress Junior High students Courtney Price and Sydney Smith joined with Art Teacher Cindy Claybar to make their LCJH Hill-Bennett Cafetorium a beautiful place for students and teachers to return to next school year.

“Administrators have been asking me for some time to take on this project, but I wanted the students to have an active role in the design and production of the mural,” Claybar said. “I also knew I had to have just the right students that would be dedicated enough to see the project through to completion. Courtney and Sydney were the perfect two.”

The only guideline administrators provided was they wanted it to be a landscape design.

Claybar and her students took it from there using some pictorial landscapes from the internet and books to provide inspiration and then made a design all their own. The mural consists of mountains, Aspen trees, a pond, a stream, wildflowers, and some strategically placed animals that will find viewers finding something new in the mural each time they sit down for lunch.

“I think when they asked for a landscape they probably expected us to just do some basic grass, trees, and flowers with a sky,” seventh grader Sydney Smith said. “With Mrs. Claybar’s teaching we were able to do something that will hopefully transport people’s minds during lunch to a calm tranquil setting away from the hustle and bustle of the daily school rush.”

Normally commissioning work like this would be well beyond the school budget and require fundraising or public sponsorship. Now, more than ever, under the state-wide public education massive budget cuts, schools are forced to find more creative ways to make campuses a better place for all. Relying on student groups under the direction of dedicated sponsors often volunteering their time is one way administrators can make learning fun and fulfill the requirements of unfunded mandates. Claybar is the Art Club sponsor and Price and Smith both served as art club officers last school year.

“Sydney and I attended a student council summer workshop a few weeks ago where one of the focuses was community service and ways we could assist our administrators,” eighth grader Courtney Price said. “I saw painting this mural as a way to give back to the LCJH community by making our cafeteria a prettier place to dine.”

In addition to this project Claybar also volunteered time this summer to teach a one week Artventures Camp where proceeds benefitted the LCJH Art Program. She will do another camp later this summer at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church where all proceeds will benefit the church. Students interested do not have to be members of St. Francis to enroll in the program, and parents can contact the church directly for more information and to register for the program.

“I feel God has graced me with a special talent of art and teaching, and I love being able to use this gift to give back to my church, and my community, and the school,” Claybar said.
LC-M CISD Director of Secondary Curriculum, Stacey Brister, certainly agreed.

“Cindy is very talented and a blessing to the students she teaches. I had heard there was some permanent artwork going up on the walls of the cafeteria so I decided to just go over and check it out. I was truly amazed at the fine details of these paintings, Brister said. “ Mrs. Claybar and her students have done a tremendous job. This is a work of art LCJH will enjoy on a daily basis and have to treasure for years to come.”