Student Artist Mural Project Paints the Town

Art is coming to Farmville in a big way thanks to Carley Fetty and a group of middle school students from Prince Edward County Middle School. During the Heart of Virginia Festival Saturday, Fetty’s students completed a mural, the first of a series, on the j fergeson gallery on Main Street.

The Student Artist Mural Project, an idea Fetty launched at the last minute, was the winner of the 2017 Downtown Farmville Supporting Outstanding Urban Projects (SOUP) event that offers grants to proposed projects benefiting the community.

“I was listening to the radio one morning and heard John Burton talking about the SOUP project,” Fetty says. “He said that anyone that had an idea could enter until 5 p.m. that day. I got my entry in at 4:59!”

Fetty has taught the advanced art class at Prince Edward County Middle School for the past three years. “I feel like I’ve taught in a lot of environments, but I didn’t set out to be a teacher,” the Longwood art major says.

Fetty began her artistic career as a photographer.  After graduation in 2010, Fetty, then Carley York, established CYork Photography. She also worked at Twin Lakes State Park and taught 4-H classes. After a few years in the classroom at Prince Edward County Middle School, Fetty is enthusiastic about teaching.  “I have an amazing class of advanced art students,” she says. “When I heard about the SOUP event, I knew I had to enter it.”

Fetty’s inspiration for the mural project came from the Start with Art Exhibit for student artists held every year at the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts. “I always wished that I could enjoy this artwork year-round,” she says. “When I heard about the SOUP project, I immediately thought about how amazing it would be to see student artwork throughout downtown Farmville.”

With less than one day to put a proposal together, Fetty came up with the idea for an art project that would allow her students to share their talents in a larger-than-life way. Fetty’s proposal focused on a series of murals, roughly 6 by 12 feet in size, that would be designed by student artists and placed on unadorned walls around town. Young artists, ages 12 to 18 in the counties of Prince Edward, Lunenburg, Charlotte, Buckingham and Cumberland, would be eligible to submit original artwork for the project on such themes as community, pride, green living or collaboration.

In April an event was held to decide the winners of three SOUP grants. After each project was presented, a vote was taken. “When I presented my idea, I just tried to show how excited I was,” Fetty says. “There’s some kind of art that appeals to just about everybody. Art really is the universal equalizer.”

Fetty’s presentation was convincing. Her community project proposal received the first-place $2,000 grant. The Heart of Virginia Festival was selected to launch the project.

“We’ll eventually have four or five mural spots,” Fetty says. “Several business owners have already expressed interest.”

A team of five students led by Audrey Magill created the initial mural that was completed on the Heart of Virginia day. “Audrey has been in advanced art since elementary school,” Fetty says. “She is amazingly talented.”

More murals will follow in the months ahead.

“We’ll roll out the other murals during the summer, and each mural will be an event,” Fetty says. With the mural project, Fetty sees an opportunity to showcase the work of more students. “One of the things that drove me to do the project was the number of talented student artists we have,” she says. “I wanted more of them to have the opportunity to see their artwork appreciated.”

Putting the project together as well as implementing it is a volunteer effort for Fetty. She believes it’s well worth the time. She’s already making plans for the Heart of Virginia Festival a year from now. “When we do this again next year, we’ll start with the Heart of Virginia Festival again,” she says.

Sharing a vision is all in a day’s work for Fetty and her young artists.

“Thomas Mann once said, ‘Art is to the community what the dream is to the individual,’” Fetty concludes. “I believe this is the kind of project he had in mind.”

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