Clark grad giving back

Charleston artist and Septima P. Clark Academy graduate Spike Kittrell is painting a mural of the school’s namesake on a wall of the school. Kittrell’s project is part of the Day of Caring on Friday, when his work will be completed.

Spike Kittrell got an opportunity on Wednesday few people ever get.

“It’s not every day you’re given free rein at your old high school with a bucket of paint,” he said, laughing.

But Kittrell’s intensions at Septima P. Clark Academy were entirely honorable.

The 29-year-old artist from James Island was getting a jump on Friday’s Day of Caring by starting work on a 25-foot-by-8-foot mural that will brighten the halls of his alma mater. He started the project Wednesday and will finish it Friday.

School officials thought that asking Kittrell, a member of the class of 2000, to paint the mural was a way to show the students how they could come full circle.

“I’m happy we have a Clark grad painting the mural,” said program director Andrew HaLevi. “It’s an extraordinary gift he’s giving us.”

Kittrell said as a teenager he found the alternative school for at-risk students to be a better fit for him than traditional high school.

After graduation he studied art abroad before coming back to complete an apprenticeship at a stained-glass studio. Now he focuses on portraits and murals and owns a studio on Ashley and Beaufain streets in downtown Charleston.

“It’s really cool to be able to do this,” he said of the project. The only direction he was given by school administrators was that they wanted the theme to be community.

Kittrell designed a mural featuring a large black and white portrait of Septima Clark with lots of color in the background. It wraps around the corner of a hallway, with Clark looking toward the school’s entry. The theme is the “advancement from black and white to vibrant color,” he said.

“I wanted it to sum up my experience of going to Clark,” he said. “It was such a diverse group of kids when I was here, but yet there was no minority, black or white, boy or girl. It was pretty crazy how close we got. There was a camaraderie that transcended some typical social groups.”

He’s glad to leave a lasting impression on the school.

“It’s pretty cool to think that thousands of people will see it over time,” he said.

Steve Liverani, a Communities In Schools staff member at Clark, said the idea of a mural came from teachers.

“It will be powerful for the kids to see this,” he said. “We keep bugging them about making right choices. Now they can see a guy who came from here and is doing well. You can’t get more direct than that.”

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713.