Students at Valley View Elementary were greeted by some amazing new visuals as they returned from their Christmas vacation on Tuesday. A giant new mural was waiting on them above the stage in their gymnasium. Their lunchroom was also transformed into a scene that perfectly captured life in the Valley View community.

The artwork was done by Knoxville artist Gail Hinton. Hinton has been painting murals for over 40 years. She has traveled around the country plying her craft

According to her website, “Gale began painting murals back in 1966 with various types of art design that was requested and has grown since then. Her mural design started to blossom in the 1990’s when Gale was asked by a local McDonald’s franchise to paint large murals in their indoor playlands and to design windows. She has also been asked to paint murals for Carraba’s restaurants. Her work can also be seen at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN where she was requested to paint numerous murals. ”

The project was initiated after recently elected 1st District School Board member Jeffery Miller visited the school and saw that the walls were bare in relation to many of the other schools in the county. Miller put his head together with Valley View Principal Jason Dotson, Director of Schools Jennifer Fields and his fellow school board members. A small amount of money was paid out from the capital outlay portion of the budget to improve the learning environment at Valley View.

Over an eleven day period, working ten or more hour days Hinton painted the huge mural in the gym via a lift, as it is above the stage and the entirety of the lunchroom walls. The results were well received by the visiting officials and students alike as they were shown off on Tuesday morning. Miller presented Hinton with a plaque of appreciation for her work and a canvas print of miniature versions of the art on the school’s walls.

As you look at the detail of the mural in the cafeteria you will notice a number of ants throughout the scene. Hinton had a touching explanation for said ants. She was painting for a business when the owner passed away of a heart attack. The owner’s son was taking it particularly hard and was not even talking to anyone. So she was letting him watch her weave her artistic magic upon request of the folks at the business. As she was painting an ant he finally spoke up and as she was drawing an ant and asked her if it could be his ant. She has been adding ants to her murals ever since.