Mural project celebrates Salisbury after-school program


SALISBURY — For more than 20 years, SOAR Educational Enrichment has provided after-school opportunities for students at Salisbury Central School.

Now, a mural created in collaboration with the American Mural Project of Winsted and Twenty2 wallpaper + textiles of Bantam will celebrate and commemorate the founding of the program in 2020 by Zenas Block.

“The program over the years has become the benchmark for enrichment programs in the region,” said Linda Sloane, director of SOAR. “It went from a small operation to a fairly large operation. Our mission is to provide enrichment programs beyond the regular school curriculum and to make it affordable.

Michelle Begley, director of educational programs for the American Mural Project, said these types of community collaborations are important to her.

“When I was brought in, I got really committed to community partnerships and outreach to school communities,” Begley said.

The key to the mural, she said, was to make sure it had the fingerprints of every person in the school. Begley said one of their teacher artists, Jessica Jane Russell, took the creative lead on the project.

“We wanted to create a project that would resonate with the community and be a hands-on experience for every child in the building,” Begley said. “We were determined that everyone would touch this project at least once, if not twice.”

The project began in 2020, which marked SOAR’s 20th anniversary, but the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the process. Eventually, the project was completed and they were even able to include work from students who had since graduated from the school within the past two years.

“Everyone went above and beyond in a way that’s hard to describe,” Begley said. “It was a real coming together of many communities in this final project to honor someone who uplifted the Salisbury school community.”

For Sloane and the rest of the SOAR program, having a physical mural on the wall acknowledging their work is a big deal.

“There was never a physical sense or reminder of SOAR in the school except when classes were taking place.” Sloane said. “This mural really physically puts SOAR on the map. It’s a great way to commemorate the spirit of Zenas. It was important for me, to have a lasting physical presence of SOAR that there never was.

Sloane said she enjoyed the reaction people had when they first saw the mural.

“The kids were thrilled,” Sloane said. “Faculty and staff have spoken of its quality, its unification and its tremendous symbol of collaboration. It still resonates and makes many people happy every day.

Salisbury Central School will host its annual student art exhibition on Wednesday from 5-7 p.m., and the mural will be part of that display – a sign that Sloane says is much needed in these times.

“The kids have spent so much time apart, at home and in isolation, that they suddenly have this big mural 8 feet high and long that bears the handprint of everyone. world,” Sloane said. “It was a great community feeling and a celebration that everyone really needed. It’s kind of a reminder that we’re slowly coming out of this dark time. It is a celebration of life and resilience.

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