If you’ve been smiling a little more after your lattés lately, you might get your caffeine fix at the Lakewood Starbucks.

That’s because in late June, students from the Lakewood Arts Academy (LAA) completed a mural on the wall surrounding the coffee shop’s outside patio and, according to coordinator and LAA teacher Krystal Read, it has been well received by the community.

“People walk by and are really happy to see it,” she says. “It’s been a really positive thing.”

Positive for a lot of people other than just coffee lovers. The idea came from Starbuck’s manager Michael Wyatt, who had displayed the work of LAA students in his shop before. Starbucks has a policy of donating $1,000 to a local charity every time a local store does a community service project. Wyatt and Barley Vogel, owner of LAA, decided to give the money to Artreach, a local organization that helps bring the arts to seniors, the disabled and the economically disadvantaged.

“I chose Artreach because I like the work they do with senior citizens,” says Vogel, who used to teach for the organization at senior centers in Dallas . “The world that would open up when those old gals and guys started painting was miraculous.”

Read says the kids who designed and painted the mural, from 4-year-olds to teens, also learned a lot from the experience.

“We had a theme of community, so the children started doing sketches of the Lakewood community,” she says. “And then, just by having everybody there, it turned out to be a big community project. I think they learned how to work together.”

Read started by having a roundtable with her students about what “community” meant to them, and they did sketches based on their ideas. Some kids made pictures of home, some of school, the library, the museum, the State Fair. And, kids being kids, some dragons, rainbows, dogs and dinosaurs made their way into the drawings as well.

Read then tried to incorporated a bit of all the sketches into the mural design. That, she says, was the most challenging part of the project.

“The hardest part was knowing I couldn’t include everything from everyone; knowing someone might get their feelings hurt,” she says. “But it seemed to work out just fine.”

Power Properties, a neighborhood builder and renovator of apartments, lofts and condominiums, donated the materials to help complete the mural. On three days over a few weeks, students age 7 and older worked on the mural, with Read and Vogel’s help, as well as some of their parents.

“That was my favorite part,” Read says. “They [the kids] were so excited about it. It was just a really positive day with a lot of high energy. People really enjoyed just coming and watching.”

And the community has applauded the effort, Wyatt says.

“It’s been terrific. It makes people smile. One woman says she smiles every time she drives by it.”

And no matter that professional artists didn’t do it, he says.

“It’s hard to critique children’s art. There’s something natural and genuine about it.”

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