ACGC North mural encourages knowledge and imagination

While doing their day jobs, Danny Shonerd and Sean Shonerd wield brooms and brushes to clean the school hallways in the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District.

While doing their day jobs, Danny Shonerd and Sean Shonerd wield brooms and brushes to clean the school hallways in the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District.

During evening and weekend hours, however, the father and son team have been using fine-tipped brushes, brilliant acrylic paints and a hefty dose of imagination to brighten up an otherwise long, drab hallway in one of those school buildings.

For the last eight months the Shonerds have been carefully creating a 9- by 40-foot mystical masterpiece on the block wall hallway that leads ACGC North Elementary students to the lunchroom.

"We designed it for the kids," said Danny Shonerd.

They used bright primary colors to create rich hues that draw a viewer into the eyes of a wizard and the waves of water that carry a ship to the stars and planets.


"The kids will see something different each time they walk by," said Sean Shonerd.

Hired by the ACGC Parent-Teacher Organization, the Shonerds sketched out a visual plan for the mural in the Atwater school.

They began transferring that plan to the wall in February.

They finished last week.

"It's the biggest thing we've ever painted," said Danny Shonerd, who is custodian at the Atwater school. "I'd rather be doing this than sweeping floors."

The elder Shonerd isn't afraid to say that, while he appreciates his job with the School District, his true love is art. He went to college to study art to fulfill his childhood dream of being an artist, but life interrupted that goal somewhat.

Besides painting, he writes music and has played in various rock and roll bands for 30 years. "I mess around with every instrument I can get my hands on," said Danny Shonerd.

His 25-year old son is pretty much a carbon copy of his dad. Sean, who conducts most of his custodial duties at the high school, has been "drawing ever since I was a kid." He also writes and produces music and also performs with bands under the label "Subliminaughty." He's attempting to launch his own production company called "Kontagiouz Beats."


Visual arts and music are a big part of the Shonerd family. Wife and mother, Sharon Shonerd, is also talented with arts and crafts and -- get this -- she is also employed as a custodian with the district, working at ACGC South Elementary in Cosmos.

For Danny and Sean, their jobs as custodians and their love of art meshed nicely when they were offered the job

of livening up the hallway with a mural.

They had a plan for placing the painting in the center, but had forgotten about a fire alarm that was smack dab in the middle of the wall. They shifted to the left and began painting, but felt uncomfortable about all the blank space on the right side.

"It just didn't look right," said Danny Shonerd.

They began adding some color and some faces and some fish on a musical scale on the right side to create the second half of a colorful story on the wall that celebrates the beauty of day-dreaming and fantasy combined with the power of education and knowledge.

An open book that's part of the mural contains the words, "Knowledge and imagination make all things possible."

"The book basically says what the painting is about," said Danny Shonerd, who came up with the wording. "It just popped into my head," he said. One of the teachers told him Einstein had written a similar quote. "So we're in good company," he said with a laugh.


Shonerd said the mural doesn't focus on technology, which kids already have in abundance in their lives, but with the "natural energy powers."

There's some question whether the wizard is actually creating or destroying the world and caves along a painted ledge give the impression there are faces screaming. "We put that fairytale fear in there," said Danny Shonerd.

Sean Shonerd said he's concerned kids could lose an "important aspect of their lives" if they don't use their imagination and embrace a bit of fantasy.

At one end of the mural, a boy and girl are shown engrossed in reading books while a unicorn prances on the wall, encouraging the kids to "let their imagination go," said Danny Shonerd.

There are many fun details to the painting. Instead of repairing a small hole in the wall near the floor, the Shonerds chose to emphasize it by painting it as a big black mouse hole with a cute mouse heading toward it towing a hunk of cheese in tribute to the school cook.

If you're able to read notes and hum a little, the fish notes on the musical scale actually play a song. It's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," according to Danny Shonerd.

The two worked compatibly together during odd hours in their off time. They have no idea how many hours they invested in the project, other than it was a lot. And they never had a disagreement on what color to use or how a character in the mural should be painted. "We pretty much think the same way," said Sean, with an appreciative nod to his dad.

Students were able to watch much of the process as the Shonerds undertook the project.


"The kids have been able to see the progress every day," said Dave Oehrlein, elementary principal, who has high praise for the Shonerds' talents and the artwork that's now part of the school buildings.

Kids and teachers were equally enthralled to watch the mural grow, said Oehrlein, and will be just as excited to see the finished product.

Much of the mural will be a surprise when kids return to school next month.

"It'll be exciting to see what the kids say," said Danny Shonerd. "It was for the kids."

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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