A central Ohio artist who has painted murals in 25 countries worked with students and parents to bring a new project to Tremont Elementary.

By April 25, a brick wall that overlooks the playground area at the Upper Arlington school was emblazoned with images of children, the Tremont lion and about 700 thumbprints representing every student at the school who helped paint the new mural.

The project was led by Phillip Martin, a muralist who lives in the Polaris area.

His website, the muralman.com, lists links to 53 mural projects he's completed, some as close as Columbus and others as far away as Albania, Belize, Congo, France, Peru and the Galapagos Islands, to name a few.

When he's searching for projects, Martin said, he casts a wide net.

"I personally contacted principals, vice principals, art teachers, librarians and specialists in nearly every school district in Franklin County and neighboring counties," he said.

"Every mural has a story and is special, but it's hard to top the very positive experience I've had in Upper Arlington with the Tremont family," he said.

"The students, from the littlest to the tallest, have worked so hard to create the mural. It's been such a rewarding experience."

Martin said his approach with the Tremont mural was similar to that for a project he completed in a daycare center in Namibia, Africa, for orphans who had lost parents to the AIDS virus.

There, more than 50 volunteers were ready and willing to paint; Martin said he learned then that "working with a community is the only way I really wanted to create murals."

At Tremont, parents played an integral role, with many volunteering to help paint the mural.

Emily Ness, the Artists in Schools representative for the Tremont Parent Teacher Organization, said more than 60 parents took part in the project.

Ness said students offered design ideas and painting manpower themselves.

"Every child, every parent, every teacher has put their fingers on this," she said. "We love to do whole-school projects.

"We want every kid to be able to participate and touch it. Then when they come back years later, they can say, 'Hey, I did that.' "

Martin said students and staff members led the design of the mural, but he implemented a plan to divide it into sections that represented different grade levels.

"Tremont Elementary will have a beautiful mural, but that art isn't the best part of the project," Martin said. "Bringing a community together to create the work is the most wonderful aspect of the whole experience.

"I've painted murals at many schools, but this is the first time I've had every student in the school participate. They've been so pleased and proud.

"All 650 of those children will have ownership of this mural for years to come," he added.

"They've left their mark on their school. On multiple occasions, I have seen children lead their parents to the wall to show them where they painted."

Martin said he also is pleased with the location of the mural near the playground.

"Every time the students, their families and friends see the mural, I want them to remember it's their mural, in their community and they helped create it," he said. "We worked together on this project and now, more than ever, working together is something we really need to learn how to do."

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"Bringing a community together to create the work is the most wonderful aspect of the whole experience. I've painted murals at many schools, but this is the first time I've had every student in the school participate."

-- PHILLIP MARTIN

muralist