Once a non-descript stairwell now has been transformed with a new mural at Leonardo’s Children’s Museum. As guests climb to the second floor of the museum they will start at sea level, then see the beach, next the sky and onward to outer space. The mural was made possible by an anonymous donor who wished to honor longtime Enid Physiology and Astronomy Instructor Mr. Nolen Harsh. On Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 11:30 am there will be a brief opening ceremony and light luncheon to celebrate the mural’s completion. Activities will take place on 1st floor near the stairwell mural and in the 1st floor Birthday Room. Any and all former Enid educators in the area are welcome to attend! Central National Bank is generously providing the meal.
“Leonardo’s Children’s Museum is privileged to serve as home to this educational, artistic tribute to Mr. Harsh. Historically our community has had some exceptional people teach and graduate from our school system. I am a proud graduate also. Many of my teachers were a tremendous influence on me, I didn’t have Mr. Harsh in the classroom, but I attended during his tenure,” said Executive Director Tracy Bittle, “Your community’s children’s museum is the perfect place to exhibit Mr. Harsh’s field, continue education in his honor and recognize his remarkable service.”
Some very special artists participated in honoring Mr. Harsh as well. Founding Leonardo’s Executive Director Cheryl Swanson along with Pam Gilbreath took on the challenge of creating an interactive mural. The artists wanted it to be beautiful and educational as well. They decided to use state symbols in the design to allow children to learn and have pride for the state. They researched their concepts for accuracy and NASA was a big resource as they planned for the solar system and onward to deep space.
Both Swanson and Gilbreath are former art teachers from Waller Middle School and Leonardo’s Summer Art Institute (now called DaVinci Day Camp). They have done and continue to do various project together. “We have worked together for so long that we trust each other’s judgments,” said Gilbreath who added that the two have had a long friendship. The artists have collaborated on many Enid art projects.
Using the existing hallway was not a challenge but inspiration for the artists. When Gilbreath saw bricks stacked facing out in a row along the wall she saw the top of Gloss Mountain. Swanson thought of painting cut outs that would be attached to the wall to give the mural a 3D effect. “We make perfect partners, “said Gilbreath, “she has great connections and wild ideas and I find a way to reel in her ideas to make it reality.” The two artists were also assisted by Andy Shearon who painted the highest parts of the stairwell mural including the deep space portion.
The artists began the mural while the museum was open and children would admire the progress. One day a young girl noticed the fish painted on the mural. She proudly told Gilbreath that she knew what kind of fish it was, “She guessed a catfish because of its ‘whiskers.’”
The mural honors this outstanding, devoted public educator Mr. Harsh but also pays tribute to Leonardo’s founders. Helen Garriott an art teacher who painted many seascapes and Owen a NASA Astronaut. As museum guests proceed from one floor to another there is now even more fun and learning to be done!