Mural celebrates community, history at J.P. Knapp Early College High School

Published 12:57 pm Thursday, June 20, 2024

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A stunning new mural gracing the walls of J.P. Knapp Early College High School was officially completed last month, marking a significant addition to the school’s cultural landscape. The artistic project, funded by a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, captures the natural beauty of Currituck County while celebrating the school’s storied past and the current school spirit of the J.P. Knapp Early College Spartan family.

The mural was designed and created by Alexa Eliana, an artist from Raleigh. Known for her vibrant and insightful artworks, Currituck County Schools chose Eliana to bring the piece to life through her artistic vision and with the help of the school’s students. The project began with a series of virtual meetings between Eliana and school leadership, laying the groundwork for what would become a deeply collaborative and locally rooted artwork.

“Before executing the first stroke of a brush, Eliana immersed herself in the school community. She engaged with students and staff for a rich exchange of ideas and stories. She also dove into decades of school yearbooks, connecting ideas and weaving elements from these experiences into the mural’s final design,” stated a Currituck County Schools news release. “Her interactions with the school community informed her work and enriched the educational experience for students, providing them with a firsthand look at the creative process behind mural art. Students were also encouraged to participate in the mural painting and enthusiastically chose to do so.”

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Principal Christian Lowe expressed exhilaration about the project’s impact, noting that the mural is not just an enhancement of the school’s aesthetic but also a reflection of the community’s spirit and history. “We are grateful to the N.C. Arts Council and Alexa Eliana for making this project possible,” said Lowe. He additionally remarked what a pleasure it was to work with Eliana on the project, sharing, “Her willingness to work with every student, combined with her thoughtful and kind approach, truly exemplified her genuine care for students’ growth and eagerly sparked an interest in the arts.”

The striking mural adorns a large main wall in the school’s library media center, greeting guests immediately upon entering. Lifelike native waterfowl, wild horses, the Currituck lighthouse and natural elements of the geographical region, such as lush greenery and beach, are combined with a depiction of the historic school building and the school mascot as a constellation, all tied together by a moonlit sky and sunny horizon. Philanthropist and school namesake Joseph Palmer Knapp is honored in the creative project, respectfully captured in the clouds. Eliana also incorporated a lightning strike to the school’s bell tower after hearing of a direct strike that left administrators rattled one evening not too long ago.

“Thoughtful planning, artist talent, engaged students and staff, and a deep love for the community culminated into a vibrant, breathtaking artwork,” stated the release.

Eliana chose to use large polytab panels, also known as mural cloth, for the project. This decision allowed her and the students to work on the mural a section at a time while also respecting the history of the almost 100-year-old building, leaving its walls untouched.

The community is invited to visit J.P. Knapp Early College High School throughout the upcoming summer to experience the mural firsthand. A photo gallery of project images is available on the district website (

This project was supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Additional projects under the grant are planned for this school year and will occur at the district’s elementary and middle schools. Past projects have included enlisting artists to work with students on mosaics in the courtyard and pottery in the classroom at Currituck County High School.

Eliana’s work can be found on Facebook at Alexa Eliana Arts (