Students at 11 schools in Stafford County deepen their understanding of local history and create art to tell stories through a partnership between the school division, the Stafford Education Foundation and the Stafford Museum and Cultural Center.
The organizations established a grant project in March that provides $ 44,000 to fund 11 mural projects that showcase the county’s local history, from the Patawomeck tribe to the Civil War to the civil rights movement.
“We are proud to partner with Stafford County Schools and the Stafford Education Foundation to showcase the rich history of Stafford County, as well as the creativity and artistic skills of our students,” said Scott Mayausky, Vice President of the Stafford County Museum and Cultural Center. “These murals will be a source of pride not only for the students and schools, but for the entire community. “
Eric Powell, a teaching and learning facilitator for history and social studies in Stafford schools and a member of the museum’s education committee, said the project was inspired by a mural that students from Anthony Burns Elementary School wanted to paint in the school office.
The mural depicts the events in the life of Anthony Burns, who was born into slavery in Stafford, escaped to Boston and was captured and returned to Virginia under the Fugitive Slave Act.
Public outrage at this heightened opposition to slavery in the north, and Boston sympathizers ultimately bought Burns’ freedom.
Powell said the Stafford Museum, which does not yet have a physical home, is looking to speed up its programming.
“We have decided to offer grants to schools to do other murals to promote local history as a project for the Stafford museum,” he said.
The museum turned to the Stafford Education Foundation, which has experience in providing grants for innovative teaching in schools.
The groups had originally budgeted $ 40,000 for the mural projects, predicting that 10 schools would apply. When 11 requests were received, they added additional funds.
“We were delighted with the response from the schools,” said Powell.
The 11 schools that received the grants were Anthony Burns, Conway, Falmouth, Grafton Village, Margaret Brent, Rocky Run and Widewater Elementary Schools; Drew and Rodney Thompson Colleges; and Colonial Forge and Stafford High Schools.
In the initial requests, the schools described their wall designs and then submitted sketches.
“We looked at those sketches and provided comments to make sure the story was accurate and that there was diversity in the stories that were being told,” Powell said. “It was one of our goals: to promote the diverse history of Stafford. “
The Drew Middle School mural will showcase the Stafford Five, the five students who in 1961 attempted to enter the school, which at the time was Stafford Senior High School.
Grafton Village Elementary School is near the site where Abraham Lincoln conducted a review of Union troops before the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863 and the school mural will commemorate this event.
Students at today’s Stafford High School work with members of the Patawomeck tribe to represent a historically accurate 17th-century Indian village.
The Widewater Elementary project will represent several people in history, including Sam Langley, an aviation pioneer who conducted flying experiments in the Widewater area in 1896, and Harlem Renaissance painter Palmer Hayden, born in the region.
The grants were awarded over the summer and the murals will be finished by the winter break, Powell said.
Several, such as those at Rodney Thompson Middle School and Margaret Brent Elementary School, have already been completed or are nearing completion.
Powell said the organizations hope they can offer another round of grants next year.
“We are truly excited about this community partnership and the chance to tell a diverse set of stories about the truly fascinating history of Stafford County,” he said.