Artist Pia Reilly climbs a ladder to install her paintings on the Rae C. Stedman Elementary. Photo/Angela Denning

Artist Pia Reilly climbs a ladder to install her paintings on the Rae C. Stedman Elementary. Photo/Angela Denning

The remodeled Rae C. Stedman Elementary school building has been functioning for about two years with new windows, walls, and doors. The outside of the building was also finished off with new gray siding. Now, that gray is getting a splash of color with local artwork. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

It’s a normal day in Petersburg, skies are gray and heavy rain is falling on the roof of the elementary school. I’m standing on gray cement near the gray gravel playground looking at the gray school. But the landscape is changing.

Local artist, Pia Reilly, attaches a bunch of brightly colored circles to the outside walls of the school with help from maintenance man Rans McIntosh. Each circle gets carefully unwrapped from plastic.

“I think we have like 23 of them,” said Reilly. “I know it’s a lot, but we’ll divide them a little.”

Reilly says they represent balloons or balls flying around the walls and give movement to the piece. They are made from thick weather-proof wood.

Artist Pia Reilly installs new paintings to the outside of the Rae C. Stedman Elementary with help from Rans McIntosh. Photo/Angela Denning

Artist Pia Reilly installs new paintings to the outside of the Rae C. Stedman Elementary with help from Rans McIntosh. Photo/Angela Denning

“It’s kind of like equal to marine plywood and it’s used for outdoor signage and stuff like that. So it comes already prepared or primed but just because of this climate we live in I primed them three times, all of them and then I painted several layers of paint so hopefully they’ll hold up for a while.

“What kind of paint?” I asked.

“Oil, deck and porch paint,” said Reilly, laughing. “Really thick oil paint.”

“I noticed just looking closely at them it does look like it’s put on generously probably to make it last?” I ask.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Reilly said. “And it has a little bit of an overhang here so hopefully that will help too.”

The circles vary in size from about one to two feet in diameter. Next to them is a giant brightly painted tree.

“Tree is kind of a little bit my signature I guess,” Reilly said. “I don’t know how that came this way but it did. And I call it the learning tree. So it has a lot of details in it with the numbers and letters and words and birds and leaves. It’s big it’s 13 feet high and I think about 11 feet wide.”

Artist Pia Reilly stands with some of the paintings she created for the Rae C. Stedman Elementary School. Photo/Angela Denning

Artist Pia Reilly stands with some of the paintings she created for the Rae C. Stedman Elementary School. Photo/Angela Denning

The scale of the piece was larger than paintings she normally produces so she had to find the right space to create it.

“Cause my studio was way too small for that,” Reilly said, “and somebody suggested PIA and I went up to a board meeting up there and asked for a space to rent and they were very, very generous and they gave me a beautiful big space that I didn’t really want to move out of for free because it’s for the children.”

A line of kindergartners passes by on their way back from gym class in a nearby building. They like what they see.

This side of the building, near the parking lot is only part of project. Some of the circles along with another smaller tree will go on the other side of the school. The letters making up the school’s name on the front of the building are now all red. And Reilly also painted the inside walls to both of entrances to the school.

“It’s for the kids,” Reilly said. “I enjoy it if other people get to see it to but I think they will really like it.”

The art work cost approximately $12,000. It was funded through the $2.3 million renovation project at the school. The State of Alaska has a one percent for art requirement for public buildings construction meaning one percent of those capitol costs must go towards permanent artwork.