Osagie Ehigie, dance education and arts management teacher at Black Water Middle School, wanted a more vibrant and colorful hallway to inspire his students.
He originally planned to commission just one mural from an artist who could capture the “chaotic energy” of his classroom, and after weeks of research came across Zander Stefani’s website. Stefani is a Savannah, Ga.-based artist who attends the Savannah College of Art and Design.
After doing his research and budgeting for a small mural, Ehigie reached out to the 20-year-old artist who agreed to paint a hallway near the dance room.
His work really encompasses the energy here. It’s perfect.
Osagie Ehigie, Black Water Middle School dance teacher
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There was just one twist: Stefani wanted to paint several murals free of charge.
“When he said he’d do all this for free – give his time and his talent to us – I was blown away,” Ehigie said.
Ehigie set a few guidelines for the paintings and asked Stefani to create something vibrant and reminiscent of the energy found in middle school dance rooms. Stefani jumped head first into the challenge.
“So many schools are so bland, so white and gray,” Stefani said. “I just wanted to invoke an energy in here that will make kids excited to be here.”
Stefani used a mix of spray and acrylic paint to cover over 140 feet of wall in vibrant yellows, greens, blues and oranges. Much of the work is reflective of colors found in nature and in the flow and movement found in dance.
“I wanted the capture the energy that comes with dance, and I wanted to give it an energy that would invoke excitement,” Stefani said.
Black Water is the only middle school in the district with a dance education program. Ehigie teaches about 150 children throughout the year and includes lessons in tap, ballet, hip-hop and jazz.
That mural helps illustrate how students are so accepted here. We celebrate diversity, and students can be anyone they want to be.
Vicki Gore, Black Water school secretary
Ehigie wanted a blast of color to inspire his students and remind them why they joined the program. The dance program has grown steadily over Ehigie’s three years at Black Water, so the teacher wanted a little spark to “keep the kids stimulated, or they’ll lose interest.”
“Once you set a fire, you have to keep feeding it or it’ll sizzle,” Ehigie said.
For more information on artist Zander Stefani, visit his website at zanderstefani.com.
Stefani offered his services free of charge after researching “Mr. E” and his impact on Horry County’s middle school dance program. Ehigie’s visible passion for teaching and knowledge of the subject – Ehigie is a classically-trained dancer who performed on cruise ships and in Las Vegas – shows through with every student performance, Stefani said.
Painting a string of colorful murals in a back hallway of Black Water Middle School was just a small way to thank a hard working teacher, Stefani said.
“Mr. E is very selfless,” Stefani said. “It was just a great opportunity to give back to someone who has already given so much.”
Claire Byun: 626-0381, @Claire_TSN