Undersea Wonders

New mural for Bolles

Graduating fifth-graders at The Bolles School’s Lower School Ponte Vedra Beach Campus raised funds to leave a legacy gift to the school. The gift will, in many ways, be the face of the campus, “… so visually impactful that when you walk into Ponte Vedra Hall — students, visitors, prospective families — you will be filled with joy,” says Head of Lower School Peggy Campbell-Rush.

The gift is a thirty-foot mural of an underwater scene titled Wonders of the Sea, painted on one wall of the school’s dining hall and featuring individual touches by the fifth graders themselves. The students had the opportunity to aid world-renowned artist Dan Fenelon in the final design and execution of the mural, created in Fenelon’s bold, pop style (think Keith Haring meets Romero Britto).

The initial idea for a mural with an “ocean theme,” as Campbell-Rush shares, became an underwater scene under the students’ guidance, and she says the children requested a few more specifics. For example, in Fenelon’s original design, a submarine was driven by a cat, but the students not only specified that they’d like the submarine to be yellow, but they had the idea to put the Bolles mascot, a bulldog, in the school’s color of orange, in the driver’s seat. They also asked Fenelon to take artistic license with an angler fish and replace its naturally-angry face with a happy one.


Fenelon is not only experienced, and acclaimed, in large-scale murals, he has had numerous artist-in-residence posts, many of these in schools. Campbell-Rush became familiar with him in 2011 while working as director of a lower school in New Jersey. Fenelon was receiving much media attention for his Peace mural, painted on a five-story exterior wall to welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the 2011 Newark Peace Summit in Newark, NJ. The mural was completed with the help of over five-hundred students from the City of Newark, and Campbell-Rush eventually asked him to create several murals for her school.

“Working with kids is such an honor and privilege,” says Fenelon. When the idea for a mural at the Bolles campus was posed as a legacy gift idea, Campbell-Rush contacted him.

“I don’t usually travel outside of New Jersey, so getting down to Florida was a great experience,” says Fenelon. He worked at the school for two weeks, every school day, and easily involved the fifth-graders. “He really made the students work,” says Campbell-Rush, adding that they were “over the moon – all smiles.”

“I’ve worked with students so many times now, I’ve learned what to let go of, to let them take control,” says Fenelon. “It’s synergy – they’re helping me do it.”

The entire school had the chance to watch Fenelon work during their lunch periods, and were welcome to approach and ask him questions. Bolles also held a school-wide assembly to learn about the mural, and Campbell-Rush says students of all ages asked riveting questions.

The fifth-graders raised funds for the mural through activities such as bake sales and assisting with parking at The Players Championship. They also received a Parent Association grant and other donations.

Campbell-Rush says the piece represents the Bolles Ponte Vedra campus in many ways. The subject matter is a clear nod to their location and is certainly “something beautiful to look at,” but the mural is also about “honoring the arts,” she says. “In the this day and age, the value of the arts is falling by the wayside; I’m proud to be at a school that’s passionate about them.” For more about The Bolles School Ponte Vedra Beach campus, call 285-4658 or visit bolles.org.

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Author: Arbus

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