By Aiesha Solomon

A new mural depicting the life cycle of the popular monarch butterfly is coming to life at Alice B. McCullough Field this summer.

A muralist and four Laurel High School interns have been painting the utility building at the field, according to Melissa Holland, the Laurel Arts Council’s treasurer. The mural is the second feature of the pollinator project, a three-phase collaboration between the Laurel Arts Council and Laurel for the Patuxent. The project also includes a printmaking effort and installation of a native garden.

Mural painters (left to right): Imani Williams (17), Ademidun “Demi” Adegoke (15), Megan Alodie, Amera McCain (18), and Monica Benitez (16).
Photo Credit: Aiesha Solomon

“The whole project is focused on raising awareness and educating people about how they can help support pollinators and specifically the monarch because, of course, the monarch [is] the most recognized of all butterflies, I do believe,” said Cheryl Dyer, a member of Laurel for the Patuxent, who came up with the idea.

“The way these things come to me … they just sort of bubble forth in my imagination and that’s what happened with this one, so I put it to the Laurel for the Patuxent at a meeting and then I took it to the arts council,” said Dyer in a phone interview.

The project started in April with a printmaking workshop for adults and six printmaking sessions in May for fourth graders at Laurel Elementary School. At the sessions, Dyer explained the process of pollination, talked about the importance of the insects and discussed what humans can do to support insect life.

Monica Benitez (16) sketches a butterfly.
Photo Credit: Aiesha Solomon

“The adult project … was [a] more complicated printmaking procedure than the one we did with the fourth graders.” Dyer said. “But then those kids, they were amazing. They designed their own stamps. They cut it out of foam and stuck it to the little wooden blocks my husband cut out.”

Imani Williams (17) painting the chrysalis stage.
Photo Credit: Aiesha Solomon

The mural, which will be painted on each wall of the utility building at the field, will depict the butterfly’s life cycle. One wall will feature eggs on milkweed leaves, and the next will show a caterpillar. The third wall will depict a chrysalis, and a monarch butterfly will adorn the fourth wall. Megan Alodie is the muralist leading the project.

Amera McCain (18) painting leaves.
Photo Credit: Aiesha Solomon

“I actually really love the area. You can see it from far away. I think it highlights the art really well,” Alodie said. “I like there’s not a lot of distraction around it so it draws you into the art. It really stands out. I feel like I’ll inspire more public art in this area.” 

The interns are also learning as they participate in the project, Holland noted.

“They are learning not only about painting murals, but design techniques. How to project a small design onto a large space, like a mural, and kind of the value of public art in general. Plus, they’re learning about pollinators and how murals can express community values, like staying green,” she said.

Ademidun “Demi” Adegoke, (15) painting the caterpillar stage.
Photo Credit: Aiesha Solomon

The interns were enthusiastic about their contributions to the project.

“It’s been fun. It’s been great,” said Amera McCain, 18. “She’s [Alodie] been great at giving us tips, and I’m able to learn a whole bunch of things about what it takes to paint a mural, what you’re gonna do during the process and things like that.” 

“I like the product that we’re making. I can’t wait to see how people react to it and things like that. So yeah, even though it’s hot outside, I’m very excited,” Ademidun “Demi” Adegoke, 15, said.

“If [I’ll] be driving past, I’m gonna be like, ‘Hey, I worked on that. Cool,’” Imani Williams, 17, said.

“It makes me feel accomplished, because I’ve never done anything like this at all,” added  Monica Benitez, 16.

Alodie is receiving $5,000 for her work from a state grant. The interns each receive a $300 stipend from the Laurel Arts Council’s budget for the project, which also funds materials.

“We figured, it would be about 20 to 40 hours of work. They’re out maybe two hours a day, but only on days that are temperate. If it’s really hot, they don’t come out, so that’s how we figure $300, and we [are] also giving them a lot of flexibility,” Holland said in a phone interview. “They don’t all have to be there at once. Some have summer jobs, and so we work around their schedules, so although it’s a rather small amount, we do have a lot of flexibility.” 

The Laurel Arts Council received funding for the mural from a $100,000 grant from the state’s Community Safety Works and Business District and Neighborhood Safety program, Holland wrote in an email.

Cesar Cucufate, a former economic development coordinator, drafted the grant proposal. including the portion describing the mural and crosswalk art, with help from Robert Love, the city’s director of Economic and Community Development Department, Holland noted.

“Through the Laurel Department of Economic and Community Development, [Cucufate] allocated a portion of the grant, $10,000, to the Laurel Arts Council,” Holland wrote. “He suggested we split the funds between a wall mural, which is the metamorphosis project we are now sponsoring, and street crosswalk art, which we will begin in the fall.”

The project had to clear a regulatory hurdle early on, as the city zoning code did not permit public art.

“Also, for the zoning code, it was Robert Love, Director of the Laurel Department of Economic and Community Development, who undertook an update of the entire city zoning code, including a new section, Art in Public Places, that allows for public art in the city.  The new section was passed by the city council in early 2022,” Holland wrote.

The third phase of the project will bring a pollinator garden to the field, as well, with planting due to take place in the fall.