The Clifty Creek Elementary School leaders believe acceptance and friendships positively impact the lives of students, and they wanted that message to stand out.

Thanks to a grant from Arts for Learning and the Carl Marshall Reeves and Mildred Almen Reeves Foundation, a wall in the school library wall is decorated with a three-piece, handmade, fabric mural focusing on Clifty Creek’s motto: Changing lives … it’s what we do.

“The Specials teachers (art, music and physical education) decided to develop a program that focused on the acceptance of others and friendship, and how doing this can change lives one person at a time,” said Vanessa Gutierrez, Clifty Creek art teacher.

Principal Gina Pleak then approached Arts for Learning about starting the creative project. Arts for Learning works with teaching artists to provide workshops and other opportunities to schools, libraries, community organizations and other settings, according to Haley Baas, communication coordinator for Arts for Learning.

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“In these programs, our roster of artists use their particular art form to make connections to the Indiana curriculum,” Baas said.

Fabric artist Stephanie Robertson taught students fabric dyeing techniques to create the large-scale art piece. It highlights the school motto framed by cutouts of student’s hands and silhouettes.

The project, which took about a month to complete, included art, but also involved 21 workshops — three for each grade level, kindergarten through sixth — as well as music and physical education classes to create a special school assembly program in April that discussed the themes of diversity and friendship.

The program began with Tony McClendon, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s director of multicultural diversity, speaking about diversity. It was followed by the music and dance performance that students learned after spring break.

“The finale of the performance was the unveiling of the final artwork the students had worked on with Stephanie,” said Gutierrez. “Friends and family were invited to attend, and we had a great turnout. Overall, we felt the project was a success.”

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Kaitlyn Evener is an editorial assistant for The Republic. She can be reached at or 812-379-5633.