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John Marshall students paint ceiling tiles to beautify Richmond high school

RICHMOND, Va. -- Mary Alice Shaker has been an art teacher for more than 50 years. During those five decades in art classrooms, her students have painted everything from canvasses to fire hydrants. But what happened at John Marshall High School in Richmond over the last few weeks of school was a first for this longtime educator.

"It was the end of the year and we ran out of things for the kids to paint," Ms. Shaker said. "So in an effort to help students become more invested in their school, we had them paint ceiling tiles. It's helping beautify the school."

Shaker, fellow art teacher Mr. Diggs, and their students painted between 50-60 ceiling tiles that now dot the art hallway at the Richmond high school.

"We thought if the students did something they liked, they'd also help keep the area nice looking," she said.

Ms. Shaker said she was impressed with the level of thought and care the students took while creating their ceiling tile masterpieces.

"It was their level of interest. I was fascinated by that," she said. "A lot wanted to draw cartoons, which is OK. I was focused on them learning to use a brush, learning to mix colors."

Ms. Shaker said she hoped the project would not only increase the students' school spirit, but their interest in art.

"A lot of the students are very visually aware and very good artists," she said. "Social media is very visually stimulating. All you have to do to give [the students] an idea and they're off."

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