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The ‘Footprints’ Of Woodbury’s History

Students and artists have created mural at Footprints Academy that outlines the city’s history.

A wall in the gym at in Woodbury will soon be adorned with a large mural depicting the city’s history.

The project came together after Footprints founder Nikki Robbins heard about a similar project in Hudson, Wis. From there she brought in Stillwater artist Peg Malanaphy and Kathryn Ho, a member of the city’s Heritage Society, to round out the details.

There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the city, Robbins said.

Students created the artwork for mural, which will consist of seven large footprint-shaped pieces. Malanaphy—owner of Interiors of Stillwater—said the murals use a combination of students’ art that was copied and enlarged, and the work of the painters recreating the students’ pieces.  

“I really liked the collaborative nature of the project—that it’s the actual artwork of the students,” Robbins said.  

The mural is set to go up June 3. The gym wall will be painted with a landscape to help accent the mural, which Robbins hopes becomes a “destination” spot for other school groups and the community.

The themes on the footprints are: topography, wildlife, Native American culture, farming, industry, local heroes and the history of Footprints Academy.

Much of the artwork was derived from classroom lessons, Robbins said, and Ho came in to talk to the students about the city’s early days.  

Ho said she brought to the school elements of what students typically see in field trips to the Woodbury Heritage Society’s Heritage House as part of the project. She said the students at Footprints Academy were interested and engaged listeners—some of the best she’s ever encountered.

Ho said she has always been impressed with the robust agricultural economy of the Woodbury area. There were no stores, no restaurants, “but there were three blacksmith shops,” she said. Woodbury was also a major dairy-producing area.

“And it was an area where everybody would help each other and get things done together—kind of the same way things are now,” she said.

Woodbury slowly expanded in the late-1950s and early 1960s, Ho said, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that the residential boom started in earnest. Much of that had to do with where the major highways were built, she said.

“It’s fascinating to see how it came about,” Ho said.

Footprints Academy has an interesting history of its own. The school was in a strip mall, then moved to and was later located at . The current location on Tamarack Road was once a house whose owner had foster children. The structure was also a church for a number of years, Robbins said.

The mural cost about $2,300 to put together and the school is hoping to raise more funds to create more footprints, Robbins said. The school is open to donations, and she has applied for a Wal-Mart Foundation grant to keep add more footprints to the mural.

The goal was the pique the students’ interest in local history, said Malanaphy, who also worked with fellow artists Liz Malanaphy (her sister-in-law) and Terri Roberts to complete the mural. Each footprint takes another step down the path of Woodbury’s history, she said.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Malanaphy said.

The mural should be a good addition to the school, Robbins said.

“I think it really turned out great,” she said. “It’s always nice to see a project come to completion.”

She was also impressed with the artistic talent of the K-6 students.

“That’s a skill I just don’t have,” Robbins said.

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