Muncie designer gives area schools morale-boosting makeovers
SELMA, Ind. (AP) — Liberty-Perry Schools Superintendent Bryan Rausch had initially just intended to have screens installed on the front doors of Wapahani High School and Selma Middle School when he called local graphic artist Chris Mullett.
Rausch had seen Mullett’s work at a local business, and he wanted the artist’s help not only to make the entrances of the schools stand out, but also to provide greater security by putting up window graphics that blocked visibility into the building from the outside.
Two years later, Mullett’s design work is not just plastered along those doors. It’s also in the middle and high schools’ main hallways, gymnasiums and through the high school cafeteria.
The artist actually has his work in a lot of area schools now, from modernized logos and bold lettering to photograph collages with empowering messaging. These projects have become the recent focus of his business, Mullett Design Group, and his growing client list reveals that local schools are finding aesthetics to be increasingly important for boosting morale.
Mullett has worked with school corporations such as Liberty-Perry, Wes-Del, Randolph Central and Jay County. He painted Blackford High School’s mascot, a Bruin, on its gymnasium wall last summer, just in time to serve as the backdrop for pictures during the boys basketball team’s historic season. And at Burris Laboratory School, he is working on revamping about 10 areas, including its innovation lab. He also has statewide work at schools in Anderson, Bluffton and Rushville.
“We’ve been working with a lot of school corporations lately,” Mullett said, “and I have to say, it’s some of the most gratifying work. Every time we go somewhere, there’s a new group but that same excited reaction.”
As a former art teacher, Wes-Del Superintendent Kyle Mealy knows how much paint can transform a space, and this was a big initiative of his when he took the position last summer. He is one of Mullett’s more recent clients having recently had his high school cafeteria, its entryway, hallways and gymnasium painted, along with graphics added to the front doors. He also had the school system’s logo updated with a modern look and an additional pair of accent colors.
“A lot of times in school, we spend a lot of time holding on to things that are traditions that are great, but we also hold on to the way things look because we just naturally get accustomed to saying, ‘Well, that’s how it should look,’” Mealy said. “But we have to think about the kids coming in. What’s new to them? They look up, and they’re like, ‘This looks old, tired. This looks dated.’ They like something that has a little bit of a fresh look to it.”
The benefit to paint work is that it’s less expensive than other renovations. Though costs vary depending on the project, Wes-Del has allotted $40,000 from its capital projects fund in 2018 and the same figure in 2019 for building updates that include paint, signage and window graphics in entryways, hallways, the auditorium and cafeteria. But those numbers also incorporate other work beyond repainting that Mullett doesn’t handle, such as HVAC units and piping. Mealy said the corporation might even spend below that total.
Rausch said Liberty-Perry typically budgets $20,000 per year on painting expenses, and last year spent $17,756.
Plus, sections of the work can be touched up over time, simply by repainting.
Rausch said Liberty-Perry received $10,000 from a Ball Brothers Foundation grant that helped cut the cost to the school, corresponding with donations of furniture from Brown Mackie College that now provide gathering spaces amid the newly-painted hallways.
Considering Wapahani High School was built in the late 1960s, the changes have made a big difference.
“It’s a nice way to freshen up the school inexpensively instead of doing large projects ... (Chris) is very skilled. He is a for-profit business, but it’s a lot cheaper than taking out a wall, or any major renovation,” Rausch said.
Rausch said that’s a beneficial investment, for example, when his high school gymnasium hosts several teams from around the state for several sports each year. Those teams now see the new logo showcased proudly on the gymnasium wall, as well as the words “Wapahani” and “Raiders” behind the bleachers in giant, outlined capital lettering. He said because of the updates, Wapahani fans feel a greater sense of pride, and more schools want to do the same thing.
“People come and see it, and they’re like, ‘Oh, we want to do this,’” Rausch said. “And now it’s spread.”
Mullett never expected he would spend a majority of his time working with schools. As the husband of an elementary teacher, he jokes that he usually felt out of the loop when the family discussed anything school-related.
This summer, he plans on working with at least six more school districts..
After having worked with so many schools, how does he make his designs distinguishable? “Well, the reason (schools) hire our company is because of the look we establish,” Mullett said. While he uses some similar styles, he doesn’t want his designs to become templates, so he meets with administrators beforehand to hear their vision for the work.
The main challenge, he said, is mixing the future with the past. Older alumni typically prefer sticking with tradition. Students prefer the fresh new look.
Obviously, there’s an aspect that’s catching on. What started out at Liberty-Perry two years ago has grown, mostly through word-of-mouth, as Mullett says he doesn’t really advertise. (he doesn’t want to take on too much too fast.)
Mealy acknowledged that it’s tough to find hard numbers to validate that the paint work is helping. He sees its benefits through the day when he observes his students, who now gather at the transformed spaces.
“Now, they just naturally come in and congregate in the area because I think they take pride in it,” Mealy said. “And I think that they appreciate what the school system has done for them in improving their building.”
Source: The Star Press
Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com