The staff at in were disappointed when they had to take down the drapes that gave color to their otherwise drab media center.
“We were new and didn’t have much in the media center at that time, so the drapes gave it that color,” said media specialist Donna Ahlrich, adding it was because of fire marshal regulations the brightly colored drapes had to be removed. “But obviously the safety aspect was more important.”
That was when local muralist Michelle Black of A Color Affair came up with a solution.
“I approached Ms. Donna Ahrich back in December of 2010, introducing myself and telling her what I do. Immediately, she was interested,” Black said. “Ms. Ahlrich told me she recently had to remove custom curtains from the media center because the fire marshal said it was a hazard. Since then, the walls have been stark white.”
Although Ahlrich’s son had created artwork to decorate the media center as much as possible, Ahrich said she still missed the “pops of color” here and there the curtains had given.
“That's when I suggested painting curtain murals for each window,” Black said. “Though they aren't actually curtains, it would give her the ‘pop’ she was looking for and maybe help make the media center a little more homey.”
Black said although she came up with the idea, it was Ahlrich who chose the colors and overall design.
“We actually went back and forth for a while on the designs as the original ones had a lot more than just curtains,” Black said, adding it was during this process she came to realize just how restricted the school budget was and how Ahlrich managed to get around it.
“She used funds generated from book fairs to cover the cost of the murals,” Black said. “Until last year, I didn't even realize that media centers get their funds through these book fairs. So when the parents have limited budgets, the media center does too.”
By Friday, most of the media center again had curtains of many colors, seemingly blowing in the breeze - they were just painted on instead of hung. Alrich said she was thrilled with the results and many people had come in commenting on how realistic the curtains looked.
“Even while I was painting, some people came into the media center asking if I was hanging curtains,” Black said.
The curtains at Bay Creek Middle was not the first job Black had done for Gwinnett County Schools and Alhrich said she’s sure it won’t be the last. They are already looking at other possibilities to make use of Black’s talents.
“I hand paint murals throughout Atlanta and the Southeast U.S. for both commercial and residential clients,” Black said. “Bay Creek Middle School is actually the fourth Gwinnett County School I've painted murals in.”