A huge paint-by-numbers project is going up on the south face of Folwell Performing Arts Magnet School to better reintroduce the school to the surrounding neighborhood.

The gluing of individually painted panels to four large brick spaces on the school’s 37th Street façade began last week. A ceremony to formally introduce the four 500-square-foot murals is planned for back-to-school night at Folwell on Aug. 20 from 4-5 p.m.

The community project featured hands-on painting of the individual 25-square-foot panels by members of the school community and the larger neighborhood. They applied number-coded artist-quality acrylic colors to a synthetic fabric similar to that used in short collars and cuffs.

The painting under the direction of professional muralist Greta McLain took place in a series of seven workshops earlier this year at places such as Sibley Park and Midtown farmers market.  Painters from grade school age to Nokomis-area seniors participated.

“I’d like to make a contribution,” said one painter, Najma Omar, an intern on the project, who also worked on a recent mural with McLain at Roosevelt High School, where she will be a senior.

Folwell was dark for three years after a long run as a middle school. It reopened in 2012 with a fine arts program that moved from the Ramsey school building. The school at 3611 20th Av. S. enrolled 881 K-8 students last fall, with 57 percent of them Latino.

The Folwell Connections Mural is an effort to portray how the school and its community are connected, according to Molly McCartney. She’s a parent of two at the school, and a board member of both the school’s parent-teacher organization and the Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association, which is acting as fiscal agent for a $45,000 Minnesota State Arts Board grant that supports the project.

Students and community members worked on the design of the panels at events last fall and winter. The prep work for the community painting parties was done by McLain, her four high school interns and several other assistants. McLain is a South High School graduate and attended the fine arts program when it was at Ramsey. She’s worked professionally as a muralist for nine years, on projects sprinkled across south Minneapolis, plus some international projects.

She said she expects the mural to last a minimum of 15 years, or “as long as you can get paint to last.” The finished panels got a clear coat of acrylic paint to help reduce deterioration in the sun. “It’s like permanent wallpaper,” she said of the technique.

(Above: Roosevelt senior Najma Omar, an intern on the mural project, painted a panel at Sibley Park)