By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COVINGTON - Sarah Williams and her friends have some advice for aspiring artists. Don't worry, they say. Be free.
"If you think you're going to mess up, you're going to get freaked out and drop your paint," says Sarah, 10.
She knows this because every Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. she and about 12 classmates stand at the corner of 17th and Scott streets, industriously painting a mural on a concrete wall.
Leading the kids in the project are Covington artist Peter Jaquish and Matt Eckerle, their art teacher from 6th District Elementary School.
Jaquish has worked with several groups of schoolchildren on murals throughout the city. With their input, he designs the scene and sketches it in. Then the children apply the paint, with lots of it landing on their fingers and faces.
"I'm having a lot of fun with it," says Kyle Huff, 10, from atop a ladder, where he was adding strokes of brown to a patriotic mural featuring a bald eagle, a purple mountain, the American flag and the Statue of Liberty.
"It's creative," says Kyle. "Also, some of my friends who go to Two Rivers (Middle School), they don't get out till 3, so it gives me something to do. Also, I like Mr. Eckerle."
The boyish-looking art teacher is known for bestowing a nickname on every one of his students. Kyle, for instance, is called Kung Fu Larry, after a cartoon character, because he once wore a Ninja outfit for Halloween.
Last Friday, the children's work drew the attention of Jenni Woodruff, who owns a bed-and-breakfast in the Wallace Woods neighborhood. She was so impressed by their efforts that she showed up with lemonade and cookies to thank them.
The kids aren't shy about altering the appearance of a public thoroughfare. If somebody doesn't like their work, well. ...
"I really don't care, because it's my art, and I'm trying to express myself," says Destinee Brown, 10, waving her brush in the air for emphasis.
Right, Sarah says. Her words of encouragement for a beginning artist: "You did it. Nobody else did. You be proud of yourself."
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