COLUMBIA — Eyebrows furrowed in concentration, he made careful, deliberate strokes to paint piano keys an unconventional purple.
Pausing to observe his work, 7-year-old Luke Ochoa said, “I’m going to tell my art teacher I did this.”
Luke and other community members helped paint three 4-by-8-foot panels Saturday at the Columbia Academy of Music for the 2011 Roots ’N’ Blues ’N’ BBQ Festival.
The panels are an extension of a mural on the east side of the music school, which was painted in April. Both projects stem from Blues in the Schools, a music education program in Columbia’s elementary schools designed to introduce children to blues music.
On the mural behind the panels, yellow, bright green, red and electric blue characters play banjos, drums, trumpets and other horns. Lisa Bartlett, Artlandish Gallery owner and designer of the mural, said children from four area schools drew blues-inspired pictures, and she arranged some of the figures to create a colorful cityscape.
Bartlett went through about 200 drawings to find inspiration for the mural. Mandy Rowles and Andy Gingrich, two interns for Bartlett’s gallery, designed the panels, using other elements from the children’s drawings that weren’t depicted in the mural. Bartlett said the interns have been working every day to finish painting the mural.
“They’re the two people who aren’t afraid to get in a harness and go up to the fourth level of scaffolding,” she said.
And though her interns have been hard at work, Bartlett said several others stepped up to help paint.
"We've had so many volunteers, and I'm really thankful for all the help we've had," Bartlett said.
Stase Ochoa, group sales ticket manager and co-manager of the VIP section for the music festival, brought her sons Luke and Jacob to help paint the panels and teach them the importance of community service. Originally from New Orleans, she said she enjoys events that help residents get more involved.
“Columbia has such a beat, a good sense of community,” Ochoa said. “This right here makes me feel like I’m back at home.”
Tony Hirner is the manager of a Sherwin-Williams paint store in Columbia, which donated all the paint for the project. Hirner said that though his 7-month-old child won't be in school for a few years, he thinks the Blues in the Schools program is great because it “keeps music going in the schools.”
Polly Sweitzer, one of Roots ’N' Blues' organizers, was volunteering for the paint day. She said she was also excited about the music program and this opportunity for a community event.
“This is just a tribute to children’s art and music,” Sweitzer said. “Any time you can turn a plain beige wall into something colorful, it’s great.”
The mural will be dedicated during a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. May 19 at the music school, and the panels will be on display at the 2011 Roots ’N’ Blues Festival.