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Teacher vows to finish mural his students started

Brian McAllister is trying to finish the 150-foot project that his students started and have been unable to gather to finish during coronavirus concerns.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Brian McAllister never expected to be taking on a challenge this large on his own.

“It’s kind of quiet. I’m missing my team though,” said the Gibbs High School art teacher.

McAllister has been without classes to teach in person for a few weeks now that COVID-19 coronavirus concerns have shut down schools. He oversees the Gibbs Mural Club. The students have already completed two projects in 2019.

The third became more work than expected.

“I’ve got a lot of kids who are a little bummed out they can’t be out here but we’re going to try our hardest to get it done,” he said from under his wide-brimmed hat and paint-stained shirt. “As soon as they can get back on the wall, they’ll be out here.”

McAllister is determined to finish the project on the side of a convenience store on the west side of 34th Street North, just south of 46th Avenue South, in the Marina Village Shopping Center in St. Petersburg. The 150-foot long ocean scene depicts people interacting with nature and the balance which must be struck between the two worlds.

The mangroves are finished. The Skyway Bridge is done. The sky is colored in. Yet, there is still work to be done. McAllister guesses he’s 80 percent finished with the 15-foot tall mural.

“The freediver is in. There is a lot more done now,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “I’ve been out there cranking.”

Last week, McAllister returned to teaching. He conducts classes virtually and can only paint on the weekends. That is slowing down the process even more since it began back on March 14 with students doing the stenciling. Much of the work was expected to be done over spring break the following week.

The original finish date was March 31.

“I’d love to have it done in the next week,” the teacher said.

The Gibbs club painted for the Shine Festival by completing a piece on the Royal Theater down 22nd Street in St. Petersburg. The kids also painted the grandstands at Northeast Little League.

McAllister has been keeping his students in the loop on the ocean mural project with photos and emails. He’s hoping to get the piece to the point where only finishing touches remain so that the kids can add the final color to the project when extracurricular activities resume.

“I can’t wait to get them back out here. I’m emailing every day to try to figure out when we get back out here,” McAllister said.

The club gets paid for its work and the money goes into an account for future projects.

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