Melissa Ewing inspires with art, generosity

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Melissa Ewing is flanked by the Fales School Principal Maryann Standard (left) and first grade teacher Jean Katralis (right), in front of the mural Melissa created at the school. PHOTO/BONNIEADAMS
By Bonnie Adams Government Editor

Westborough – When most college students come home for their winter break, there are usually two things on their mind – sleep and catching up with friends. Melissa Ewing had something more ambitious planned for her vacation when she came home to Westborough in late December 2010. Melissa spent the month of January creating three beautiful murals that now grace the Fales Elementary School, Gibbons Middle School and the Westborough Library.

Melissa, who is a freshman at Oberlin College in Ohio, explained that each January students are encouraged to use their break to pursue other passions. Some participate in community service while others might study a new language, she said. Melissa's idea was to use her love of painting in a way that gave back to her hometown.

“I didn's have a formal plan,” she said of her thought to do murals for the buildings. “I just e-mailed the schools and library. I was surprised they said yes.”

“I looked at books of murals for ideas,” she added. “I wanted to come up with ideas that combined things, make it like a collage and fit the theme of each building.”

The result is three works of art that include scenes straight out of a child's imagination – incorporating sea creatures, lifelike alphabet letters, flying monsters and other magical creatures.

Melissa noted that coming up with a concept was the easy part. While she was given permission to work in each of the three buildings, there were still particular safety codes that had to be followed. The work surfaces themselves also had to be prepared, which meant that she and a few friends laboriously scrubbed cement walls and filled in cracks.

She then drew her designs onto a transparency sheet and projected the image onto the wall, where she traced it before starting the actual painting.

“I definitely didn's think it would take this long to do,” she said, “but my boyfriend, Jake L”Ecuyer, and some friends helped me while they were home. And at the Gibbons School, some high school kids helped out.”

At the Fales School's January assembly, the children were able to thank Melissa in person for her one of a kind gift.

“Melissa learned the lesson of kindness here at Fales, just as you all are now doing,” Fales Principal Maryann Stannard told the children. “Thank you to Melissa, for making Fales even more special.”

As a thank-you, Melissa was also given a charmingly illustrated book that was created by the class of Jean Katralis, who also happens to be her former first-grade teacher.

Deborah Ewing, Melissa's mother, looked on proudly as her daughter was feted by the young children.

“She is just such a special kid,” Ewing said. “I knew she loved art but I am so amazed at all the work she has done.”

Library Director Maureen Ambrosino said the mural Melissa created there is “in a perfect place, right outside the children's room. It really catches the kids” attention. She worked so hard on this – she did a great job.”

Although Melissa is somewhat embarrassed by all the attention she has received for her projects, it is clear, as she sees the reactions of her youngest fans to her work, that their opinions are what matter the most to her.

That verdict is overwhelming positive.

[Melissa is] “an awesome artist,” according to one young Fales student.