County to celebrate Superhero Day Dec. 4

Published 6:19 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Larger-than-life superheroes will leap from the comic book page onto the walls of a Greenville Elementary bathroom as the school prepares for one of its most unique projects to date.

Debra Strycker, wife of Butler County Schools superintendent John Strycker, has spearheaded a beatification project alongside principal Kent McNaughton and Tiffany Brooks to breathe new life into the school’s interior, specifically its bathrooms.

“When John interviewed for the superintendent position and we were walking through the schools, we noticed that Greenville Elementary is just a beautiful building, and it has a lot of history,” she said.

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“But it’s just been painted over and Band-Aided here and there. And so I thought we’ve got to do something to beautify these schools to make them nice, and to give these kids pride.”

Strycker’s own combined 30 years of design experience, as well as the aid of dutiful volunteers, principal Kent McNaughton and Tiffany Brooks, led to striking themed bathroom redesigns. Included are a third-grade boys bathroom featuring a pennant-themed sports design and a chic Victoria’s Secret-infused bathroom for third-grade girls.  The latter uses the recurring phrase “Hello, Beautiful,” written in English, Italian, French and Spanish in pink, black and white.

But when Strycker arrived at the fourth-grade boys bathroom, her aspirations suddenly grew by leaps and bounds.

And just as suddenly as the inclination struck, so too did the idea.

“A year prior to this, my daughter was in Asheville at a comic book convention and came home with a piece of artwork, and said ‘I met Pete reincarnated.’”

Pete was a family friend of Strycker’s dating back to her elementary school years.  He eventually became one of the youngest artists whose art was featured at the Art Institute of Chicago.  He passed away five years ago, but Strycker’s daughter found a spiritual successor of sorts by pure chance.

“She shows me a piece of artwork she bought from a guy named Charles Drake, who lives in North Carolina. And at that time, I’d friended him on Facebook, not thinking anything about it but wanting to look at his artwork.”

But when the lightning flash of inspiration struck, she messaged him via Facebook, explaining what she hoped to accomplish at Greenville Elementary School and if he could help. 

Upon hearing the situation, Drake quickly agreed to come down and create a superhero-themed mural for the fourth-grade boys bathroom.

In addition, Greenville Elementary will host a meet and greet Monday from 4-7 p.m. in the school’s gym with the comic book artist, in which visitors are encouraged to peruse Drake’s own creations and also see his work on the bathroom mural firsthand.

Monday’s celebration isn’t solely reserved for capes, however, as Strycker has also coordinated with each of the county’s three mayors, Dexter McLendon of Greenville, Jerome Antone of Georgiana and Lester Odom of McKenzie, to declare Dec. 4 Superhero Day in honor of the county’s local heroes—its first responders.

Strycker said that her driving force behind the event was a desire to instill an appreciation for the arts, and to dispel the notion that artistic endeavors are somehow less financially viable than more traditional careers.

“I was very, very, very fortunate to grow up in a small town in Indiana, but we had so many opportunities,” Strycker said. “It seemed like when all of the budget cuts happened in school systems, art was the first thing thrown out the door.  It was like ‘Who needs art? We don’t need that.  Why would we need painting, drawing, etc.?’

“Well, guess what?  I have made a great living in 30 years because I had great art teachers, and I had art-inspired things in my life and people supported my creativity.  I’m not a banker; I didn’t do really well in math, science or English.  I colored really well, and that’s where I made my living, and it was a really, really good living for 30 years.”

But more than that, she said that the artistically inclined make the world a better place for artists and non-artists alike.

“Some of our little budding artists are growing up, and they’re going to look at these crazy-amazing murals and beautiful bathrooms, and they’re going to be inspired to go and changed the world,” Strycker said. “Because that’s what we do with art—we change the world in our own little way.

“The starving artist is not someone who’s hungry, other than their soul is starving because they’re not doing their art.”