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story.lead_photo.caption Harding Academy students Jack Thomas and Sabrina Rampey, along with Brylee Jeffrey, behind Thomas, paint the inside of the 3-point line on an outdoor court at the Searcy Event Center. - Photo by Mark Buffalo

— The latest project from the Think ART Project is getting elementary students in the Searcy area involved.

Students from area elementary schools are painting murals on the outdoor basketball courts at the Searcy Event Center.

“It’s a way for the kids to work with a professional artist and be a part of creating artwork that will beatify this area of town, and it will bring more usage to the basketball courts,” said Mat Faulkner of Think Idea Studio and the leader of the Think ART Project.

Sidney Deener Elementary, McRae Elementary and Westside Elementary schools are involved. Harding Academy students are also painting one of the courts.

“We’ve been fortunate to partner with the Searcy Public Schools, as well as Harding Academy,” Faulkner said. “The schools partner with a professional artist to work with their art teachers, as well as the students taking art classes to create designs for murals for five outdoor basketball courts.”

Faulkner said the students at each school came up with ideas and that the professional artist created the final mural design.

“It was approved by all the parties involved, as well as the Searcy Parks and Recreation Department,” he said. “The schools are scheduling field trips for their students to go out there and actually have a hand in painting the mural itself. The professional artist will go down there ahead of time and put down the base coats and make outlines of the design so that when the students come down for their field trips, they’ll fill in the shapes, and it will all come together for a finished piece.”

Harding Academy art teacher Demaree Britton said her students are excited to be a part of this project.

“They are loving it,” she said. “They are really excited about it, especially yesterday (Monday), when they got on the bus and could see it from up higher. They could see what all they did, and they are like, ‘Wow. That is so cool.’”

Britton said working on the project will leave a lasting impact on the students.

“They are really impressed with it,” she said. “For them to be able to do something on this big of a scale … it’s really going to stick with them.”

Faulkner said the Think ART Project is part of the Searcy Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes art in the city.

“Although Think Idea helps and assists with some of the public-relations aspects, the [Think ART Project] Committee is just made up of volunteers, professional artists, art professors, art teachers, community members, business members, parks and recreation … a whole bunch of different departments,” Faulkner said. “I direct the effort, and my role is to create a process for all the city departments and the artists and the researchers to collaborate and basically put the framework together for these projects to move forward.”

Faulkner said the group has about 20 projects lined up.

“This year, we have five or six of them that we’re trying to achieve,” he said. “The Quattlebaum Music Mural was the first one on the list,” adding that it was scheduled to be completed last week.

“We also have a few other murals downtown,” he said. “In addition, we’re looking at doing sculptures around the community. All of this is being paced as we can get to them, based on priority.”

Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or mbuffalo@arkansasonline.com.

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