Bold and brilliant, the murals of Three Rivers, California, capture the vitality of this small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, depicting the land and stories of the Yokuts, the Native Americans that once inhabited Sequoia National Park and the surrounding area. What makes these beautiful murals even more special? They were painted by children.
Six years ago, to keep art in the school's curriculum, the school came up with a new idea called "Visiting Artists Program." Each month, a different local artist donates time to guide 200 children, from Kindergarten through 8th grade, through the process of creating art. The children work with watercolor and oil painting artists, gourd artists and ceramic artists, and their work can be seen on the school grounds.
Artist Nadi Spencer took the program a step further, creating murals throughout town, developing a cultural and historical awareness in the community. She researches the life and stories of the Yokuts tribes of the area and, each year, designs another colorful tale to paint with the students. The unique process she teaches allows every child in the school to paint for 20 minutes on a given section. The youngest artists (kindergarten) paint first, filling in large solid spaces. Each class takes on more difficult tasks, until the 8th graders finish with the fine detail.
Two of these murals are featured in the Mural Trails Map, a guide to more than 80 professional murals throughout Tulare County. "How Crow Became Black" and "How The Sierra Nevada Was Made" are two of these larger-than-life creations. (Click here to read how crow became black and to watch the children painting). With the help of a dedicated handful of parents and friends, and with the support of the community, once a year a new mural brings history to life in full color.