Kevin Hawkes has illustrated more than 50 books and has helped in creating the set for theater productions. The mural project at Brown Elementary is the first time that his imagination is taken right out of the pages. (Corinne Altham courtesy photo)

SOUTH PORTLAND – Fasten your seat belts. A brand new mural at Frank I. Brown Elementary School’s library is ready to transport you to new places.

The painter of the mural is Kevin Hawkes, an author and illustrator who has produced illustrations for more than 50 picture and chapter books. His art has appeared in works such as the bestselling “Library Lion” and the award-winning “Weslandia.”

Corinne Altham, a librarian at Brown Elementary and organizer of the project, said her inspiration came from a Dahlov Ipcar mural at Gorham’s Narragansett Elementary School. She then connected with Hawkes, and they agreed that a mural would be an effective way to fill the empty space on the wall in Brown’s library.

Although Hawkes has only been working on the wall for a short period of time, it has been several years since the undertaking began.

“We really started this two years ago,” Altham said. “Kevin and I chatted, and then we started the fundraising. We’ve been working on the project ever since then.”

Many of South Portland’s schools have an overarching theme of some sort. Brown Elementary’s theme is the forest; building off of this, Hawkes selected forest animals for his mural. The scene depicts these creatures flying across a blue sky, utilizing everything from hot air balloons to strange contraptions.

“People ask me, ‘Why are the animals flying?’” Hawkes said about his work. “I tell them that’s what happens when you read a book. You fly to some other place.”

There were some moments where Hawkes had to adapt to the available space. For example, he needed to find a way to fit the images around different features on the wall, including a light switch and fire alarm.

However, it helps that he has worked on similarly scaled projects before, such as an “enchanted forest” backdrop for a theater production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

The animals in Hawkes’ 44-foot mural are original to this project. Some of them are even inspired by the imagination of the students: one noticeable recommendation is a skateboard propelled by a vacuum cleaner motor.

Also included in the artwork are allusions to community members. One of the people being recognized is former principal Margaret Hawkins, who worked at Brown Elementary for 13 years.

A school library is a space that allows students to improve on literacy skills and learn new things. Whenever they pick up one of Hawkes’ books, these children will now have a closer connection to the pages. This will be something that many generations of young readers can enjoy.

“Children love art, so they really benefit from something like this,” Altham said. “I’m so grateful to Brown School for supporting this. Libraries are important, and having this mural shows the value of this space.”

The reveal of the mural will take place on Friday, May 17, the same day as the school’s art show.

Updates on the mural and other topics can be found on the library’s Instagram page, @frankbrownlibrary.

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