Our neighborhood portrayed through children’s art.

When you ask elementary students to draw pictures of their community, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Brenda Sanchez quickly discovered this when she made the request of Lakewood Elementary’s kindergarten through sixth-graders.

“We laughed so hard. Several drawings were, ‘I love my neighborhood … my world is so beautiful,’ and then we had a drawing of a guy robbing a bank — with a gun,” says Sanchez, the school’s PTA cultural arts “czar,” as she likes to describe her position.

The 600 drawings were narrowed down to a few select images chosen for Lakewood’s new mural. No, the robber with the gun didn’t make the cut. But downtown skyscrapers, lemonade stands, Big Tex and tree houses were among those that did.

Sanchez pulled from the children’s drawings and combined them to make scenes. (For example, one student’s flower and another student’s dog portrays the dog park.) Then she traced the scenes onto carbon paper, then butcher paper, then mapped out a grid so the sixth-graders could transfer the scenes onto the back wall of the gymnasium.

Then came the fun part — the younger students dipping paintbrushes into colorful containers of red, blue, yellow, orange and green and smearing them within the lines (at least most of the time) that the sixth-graders had drawn.

Some of the drawings are just “wild,” Sanchez says, like “butterflies larger than dogs, a crossing guard with a tiara,” and the end result looks like a giant version of something a second grader might take home for his mother to hang on the refrigerator.

The project prompted several artist mothers and even grandmothers to volunteer their help, including Jeananne Yanko, who has a third-grade granddaughter at Lakewood. She patiently watched and helped as the students turned the brown gymnasium wall into a work of art.

“It’s kind-of hard not to get in there and do it,” says Yanko, whose works include paintings, drawings and three-dimensional art.

Also helping was Krystal Read, outreach coordinator for Trammel Crow’s collection of Asian art, who has previous mural experience, though she says nothing could quite prepare her for the Lakewood mural. For starters, most people working on a mural know that paint, in this case latex, is supposed to go on the wall.

“We had several that started painting their entire hands and arms, so with the next group, we had to make it clear that you could not paint your hands and arms, or your friends’ hands and arms,” Sanchez says.

If you want to see the new mural, you can get a clear shot from your car by driving along Wendover behind the school. And the drawings that didn’t make the cut aren’t necessarily lost forever; Sanchez is thinking of turning some of them into greeting cards next year as a Lakewood Elementary fundraiser.

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