Dressed in a ballgown she fashioned out of brightly colored plastic bags, artist Kayti Didriksen had a big moment in the spotlight Friday afternoon, Sept. 23 when a mural she created with local students was unveiled at Rock Hall Elementary School.
The three-panel mural hangs along the school’s brick entryway, greeting students, staff and visitors with a tableau celebrating music, movement and color.
The Sept. 23 unveiling brought school and community together for a celebration. There were musical performances by Rock Hall Elementary School students and ice cream from Lockbriar and Daughter of Worton.
“Friday’s unveiling was a wonderful way to celebrate all the positive energy and work that went into the creation of the mural. Kayti’s passion for creativity and the arts was on full display from her amazing dress to the music played by our various student musical groups,” said Principal Gillian Spero. “It was a beautiful day and a perfect celebration.”
The mural, titled “Rock Hall Elementary Rocks,” was made possible through the Kent Cultural Alliance, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the HedgelawnFoundation.
Dr. Karen Couch, superintendent of Kent County Public Schools, commended Didriksen on her work.
“Kayti captured the sense of joy music brings to our students. This mural will provide KCPS with lasting memories of her many contributions in our schools,” Dr. Couch said.
While originally from Maryland, Didriksen has traveled extensively as an artist. She came to the community last year thanks to Kent Cultural Alliance’s Artist in Residence program.
Didriksen has partnered with KCPS art teachers, visiting classrooms and helping students explore their creativity.
She completed a mosaic mural that was unveiled at H.H. Garnet Elementary School last spring.
For “Rock Hall Elementary Rocks,” Didriksen began by visiting music classes at Rock Hall Elementary School.
She attended classes led by music teachers Jodi Bortz and Ashton Mooday with her notepad and pens.
Didriksen completed a series of drawings in February and March capturing the students’ movements as they learned new rhythms and instruments.
“I went out a bunch of times to draw different classes because I wanted to get all of the grade levels and all the different ways the kids participated,” she said. “I wanted to have an opportunity to draw everything because I didn’t know what this mural would look like. In the end, you never know what a painting is going to look like.”
Using a projector, she began transferring her drawings onto the panels, working and reworking the layout many times over.
Throughout the mural’s evolution, the idea of having a teacher anchoring the composition was a constant.
That also led to Didriksen’s eureka moment bringing it all together —an inside-out rainbow.
“There’s a rainbow on the teacher’s ear and she’s listening for it. So the kids could still have all of their own individual energies, but as a group create harmonic sound through color,” Didriksen said.
In addition to being subjects of the mural, Rock Hall Elementary School students helped bring the project to life.
With art teacher Teresa Jetton, they completed a lot of the underpainting, adding the necessary layers to crank up the boldness of the colors and make the panels shine.
“I feel really happy about it,” Didriksen said of the mural. “It’s intense, but it’s so great. It’s so satisfying. I really love it.”
John Schratwieser, executive director of the Kent Cultural Alliance, helped lead the unveiling celebration Sept. 23 and presented a sign that will hang next to the mural.
“We want to thank everybody here at Rock Hall Elementary School — all of you wonderful students, all the teachers, especially the music teachers who helped put this together,” Schratwiesersaid.
The unveiling offered Didriksen an opportunity to see how much those same students she drew last winter have grown as musicians.
Bortz led individual performances by the school chorus, bucket drummers and kazoo band.
“Hello my friends!” Didriksen said, receiving cheers from students at the unveiling as she took the microphone in her colorful gown.
She thanked students for allowing her to come into their classes and draw them and for their help in painting the mural.
“It really made me happy when you helped me so much. Thank you for your hard work and I hope that you enjoy it for years to come,” she told the students. “I know I had such a good time making it and now I’m going to enjoy some ice cream.”