Halls alive with ocean life

At Beulah Elementary School, it’s not uncommon for students to pass a clown fish, sea anemone or ocean wave on the way to class.

“We have as our mascot the Beulah Whale,” Title-I teacher Robin Daugherty said, and the common theme throughout the building and its hallways is ocean life. Local artist Sally Crouch has helped bring that theme to life in several areas of the school, Daugherty said.

Recently, Crouch completed a mural of sea creatures and plants, she said. She painted each element of the mural, which included various fish, seaweed and waves, on a thin sheet of wood in that shape; the various pieces were then affixed to an exposed brick wall. The top half of the wall is home to photos of students and school events.

The recent mural isn’t Crouch’s first at the school, Daugherty said. Crouch’s first project was in 2006, when she created the “ocean alphabet” for one of the hallways, she said.
“This is more like a giant learning center,” Daugherty said, as students can come with teachers to learn the name of the letters and the sounds they make.

Crouch’s second project was painting a Beulah Whale above a photo array in the second grade hallway, Daugherty said. Those photos change over the course of the year, she said.

“We try to take pictures of lots of different things we do,” she said.

Crouch said she’s painted at several other schools, including Harrowgate, Ettrick and Wells elementary schools.

“Old schools have walls that aren’t necessarily easy to work with,” she said, so painting on wood and cutting the shapes out works better and makes it easier if the walls have to be painted.

Crouch, who studied graphic arts at the University of Richmond, first met Daugherty at Wells Elementary School, where her youngest daughter was one of Daugherty’s first grade students. Daugherty continues to call Crouch with ideas, and Crouch continues to say, “Yes,” Daugherty said.

“I like doing stuff in the community,” Crouch said. “It gives you a sense of satisfaction,” especially coming in and helping the schools. “So many schools don’t have parent volunteers and don’t have support.”

Principal Mary Jean Hunt, who’s also known Crouch for years, said it’s nice when members of the community share their talents with the school.

“Every time I bring a visitor, I say, ‘This was done by Sally Crouch,’” she said. Daugherty said Hunt, in her seven years as principal, has “done so much to beautify” the school inside and out.

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