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home > artwork > murals > A Mural Story


First Night Akron 2006/2007
Eric Carle Interactive Collaborative Mural!

Over 200 First Night Artists created this colorful mural on New Year's Eve in downtown Akron, Ohio.

By Mrs. R.

This story is about Mrs. R. and a mural that she did one time. Mrs. R. is a Teaching Artist who lives in Medina, Ohio. And one important thing that Mrs. R. likes to share with her students is the idea of responding. Mrs. R. says that responding is what making art is all about. It is also what writing is all about. The artist or writer begins by observing the world around him and he responds to it with feelings, images, thoughts, symbols, and so forth. A word is written, and the writer responds. A mark or stroke of paint is made on paper, and the artist has begun a drawing or painting. The writer and artist continually respond to what they have just done, and before long, the creation is completed and something has been communicated to the reader or viewer.

And so, because responding is so important, every year for the past eleven years, Mrs. R. has been responding to many art forms and ideas from contemporary and master artists. Since 1996 she has designed family-oriented, interactive art projects for First Night Akron. She designs a project, First Night participants respond to it and create works of art. Among many things, she and First Night participants have responded with Henri Matisse collages, Alexander Calder sculptures, and Faith Ringgold quilts.

For the 2006/2007 First Night project, Mrs. R. chose one of her favorite writers and illustrators, Eric Carle. Knowing that adults and children love his stories about nature and discovery, and enjoy the bright colors and bold shapes of his pictures, she just knew that this would be a magical project!

So, Mrs. R. created a three panel picture story. The images in the first panel she adapted from a two-page spread illustration in one of her favorite Eric Carle books, "Draw Me A Star." In this picture, Mrs. R. added animals from other Eric Carle books, such as the lamb from "The Lamb and The Butterfly," the caterpillar from "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," the lady bug from "The Grouchy Lady Bug," the cricket from "The Very Quiet Cricket," and a cloud from "The Little Cloud."

In the middle panel, she depicted even more animals and characters from other Eric Carle books. Featured are the rubber ducks from "Ten Little Rubber Ducks," the artist and star from "Draw Me A Star," the chameleon from "The Mixed Up Chameleon," the spider from "The Very Busy Spider," seahorses from "Mr. Seahorse," the crab from "A House for Hermit Crab," the firefly from "The Very Lonely Firefly," and the bear from "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?"

The last panel is her favorite. She created it from pictures in her mind that tell a story about Eric Carle's childhood. When Eric was five years old, his German-born parents moved back to Germany. They lived in a four story house with Eric's Grandmother (Oma) and Grandfather (Opa). Eric and his family lived on the first floor, Oma and Opa lived on the third floor, and other relatives lived on the other two floors. They had a garden where they grew vegetables and flowers, and had a small factory where they made parts for automobiles. Eric had very fond memories of his childhood in this house. But he was homesick for America, and he wanted to become a bridge builder when he grew up so that he could take Oma by the hand over the bridge back to America. The third panel tells this story.

So, how did Mrs. R. make the mural panels? Well, first she made the canvases and painted the backgrounds in light greens and blues, which she thought mixed and matched quite nicely as grass, water and sky. Next she drew in the scenes with a black marker. Her husband, Mr. R., made three portable easels for the canvases. At last everything was ready for the First Night magic to begin!

Mr. and Mrs. R. set everything up in Akron on New Year's Eve and waited for everyone to arrive. At last they did, and, oh, what a grand time they had! Over 200 artists of all ages came and painted on the mural. They painted and talked about Eric Carle, his life and his picture stories! They had a wonderful time!

At the end of the evening, Mr. and Mrs. R. took the painted mural back to her studio where Mrs. R. put some finishing touches on it. She re-oulined in black the main objects or subjects so that they remained clear and in focus. She responded (with a big smile!) to the pink cloud with a face by making sure it had lots of room to grin in the blue sky. She responded to some seaweed that had been added by adding more seaweed-like shapes in all three panels. She made sure that the edges were painted. Two of the "10 Rubber Ducks" had disappeared and she put them back in the water in the middle panel. At last, Mrs. R. was finished responding. She took a nap.

The mural traveled back to Akron in Mr. and Mrs. R's art-mobile. It was set up at a big party for lots of people to see. Wow! Then the big moment came for someone to be able to take the mural home….but, that is another story! Because the magic of the mural will continue to paint colorful memories in so many minds and hearts--that is why there will always be "another story!"

P.S. Eric Carle currently lives in Massachusetts. His birthday is June 25 and this year he will be 77 years old. You can visit him at his beautiful web site:

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