On the evening of March 9, more than 300 pieces of artwork created by Independence Primary School fourth-grade students were on display for their families to see at the school’s annual art show. In keeping with tradition, the students, under the direction of Art Teacher Mike Gruber, created an 4 x 24 ft. mural of five zoo animals: a red panda, cheetah, gorilla, white face sai monkey, and lemur. All the art projects also were based on animals at the zoo.
The mural took three weeks to complete and was created with the technique used by famous artist Chuck Close. Each student figured out which of the three colors to paint on a rectangle to coincide with the larger image of all the animals.
That afternoon, the students had a surprise assembly with a Cleveland Metroparks Zoo representative who shared several biofacts related to the animals in the mural and also talked about Kayembe, the Zoo’s baby gorilla.
At the assembly, the students were told that their creation will be featured on a wall in the Primate, Cat and Aquatics Building at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo this spring. In addition, on May 11, the students will be going on a field trip to the Zoo to see their displayed work and spend the day seeing all the animals and attractions.
At the evening art show, the Kona Ice Truck also was a highlight of the evening to help raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Families were entertained by the talented jazz duo Blue Monsoon in the main lobby. Families also enjoyed picking out books at the book fair. At 7 p.m., the choir performed in the gym.
Gruber has worked with his kindergarten through fourth-grade students on an annual spring art show since 2010. These murals have become a tradition at the primary school. Over the past, the students have created murals for the City of Independence bicentennial, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Cavs, and even of their favorite teachers, including a mural in remembrance of Joan Sidor, the school’s beloved long-time music teacher, Cleveland Browns players and coach, and Superheroes.
“Students start looking forward to making this mural starting in kindergarten,” said Gruber. “My classroom has a few of the murals from the past, and it is always one of the first questions… ‘When do we get to make that project?’ This year, teaming up with the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo was really exciting. Students spend their summer going to see the animals, and now the fourth graders will have something special to see on display that they can be proud of! I love the excitement when it is mural day in the classroom. You can tell the students try even harder knowing it's such a great tradition to see at the art show!”