COLUMBIA — A week ago, the walls between the ceiling and the top of the bookshelves in Field Elementary School’s media center were blank. Since then, Patty Wayland, a former teacher at Field, has taken the suggestion of her colleagues and tapped into her passionately artistic side by using those walls as canvasses.
A spider in its giant web, which spells out “Reading is Awesome,” is a nod to E.B. White’s children’s classic, “Charlotte’s Web.” A wizard’s hat and a lightning bolt represent the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Three empty armchairs pay respect to the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
And still taking shape Monday, as Wayland sat atop a ladder painting, was a portrait of a famous minister who had a dream for peace.
“It’s Martin Luther King Jr. — at least, it will be,” Wayland said, and then laughed. She painted from a palette, wetting her brush in an old sour cream container filled with water.
Wayland began teaching English as a second language at Field in 1993 but left in June to pursue art, which has long been a part of her life. She said the idea of returning to paint the media center came from talking to friends.
“(My friends and colleagues) were talking about how it would be wonderful to have art in the library and, for me, to have some publicity for it,” Wayland said.
Recent circumstances led Wayland to close the teaching chapter of her life and pursue art.
“The financial situation was taken care of, debts were taken care of, so I could leave the stability of a teaching position and kind of venture out into the unknown,” Wayland said. “I’m happy to leave (the English Language Learner program) in the hands of a very capable person.”
The final nudge Wayland needed came in reading Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” last fall. She said it made her realize that her direction in life needed to change.
“I realized that art is a God-given talent and it could very well be my purpose,” she said.
Wayland said painting these murals was one way to put together her love of children and love of art, by sharing her art with the students at Field.
“The time had come,” she said, “for me to use my God-given talents a little better than I have been.”