RACINE — The colorful interior of Bull Fine Arts Elementary School was packed with current and former students on Friday, all there to say a formal farewell to the 104-year-old building.
Racine Unified will continue the school’s curriculum next year at Gilmore Fine Arts, but the Bull building, 815 DeKoven Ave., will no longer host classes.
Isabella Perez, a current Horlick High School student and a Fine Arts alumna, was one of the hundreds on Friday night milling the halls and checking out the student artwork that covers much of the wall space at the school. The Fine Arts building stands out among Unified schools for the volume of colorful creative student works that are displayed.
“It’s sad that future children won’t be able to go here, but it’s fun that it’s expanding and that other children of older ages get to experience what the school has to offer here,” Perez said.
The special curriculum at Fine Arts was implemented in 1975 and focuses on vocal and instrumental music, dance and movement education, visual arts, creative dramatics and library science. Next year, the curriculum taught at the K-5 Bull Fine Arts school will be moved and expanded to Gilmore Fine Arts K-8. Unified has not yet decided what will happen to the Bull building after the move.
Sarah Kveton and Jeremy Nitz, both former Fine Arts students, browsed through old photos from their time at the school and talked about good times in the building during a farewell event on Friday evening hosted by the Fine Arts parent teacher association.
“Even now, seeing all the artwork that’s up, there’s still some stuff from when we were in school, which is really cool,” Nitz said. “You can of course move some of that stuff, but it’s not the same.”
Murals not relocating
Kveton added that the murals cannot be moved.
Several of the murals were painted by David Holmes, a former art teacher at University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Holmes died in 2014.
Holmes’s son, Fritz Holmes, remembers his father creating some of the murals at the school when Fritz was a student there in the 1990s.
“I always wished when I was a kid growing up that I could get my kids to go here, but they’re not going to have an opportunity to go to this school,” Holmes said.
Raena Karolus, David Holmes’ daughter and an art teacher at Jerstad- Agerholm, said it saddens her that the building will no longer host Fine Arts.
“This school is a part of Fine Arts and then it’s going to a place with no windows and no beautiful Holmes murals,” she said. “But it’s nice to be here and see all the old friends and teachers and reminisce.”
Lisa Johnson, a former art teacher at the school who taught there for more than 30 years, spent Friday night chatting with and embracing her former students.
“It was just a real special place with a very family feel,” she said.
Johnson recalled that back in the old days she and a few of the other teachers would sneak onto the roof to eat lunch on nice spring days.
“What I’m definitely going to miss about our school here is just the smaller environment,” said Principal Zach Jacobsmeier. “It’s a very close, tight-knit family that has a lot of tradition and a great reputation with our program here in the building.”
Jacobsmeier said he feels very positive about the move to Gilmore, 2330 Northwestern Ave.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” he said. “Transition and change is tough, but I feel really good about it.”
While former students and teachers shared memories about the school, current students played in a bounce house in the gym and painted rocks that will be displayed at Gilmore next year.
“It was just a real special place with a very family feel.” Lisa Johnson, former art teacher at Bull Fine Arts School