Showell unveils hometown history mural coastal point crispy fried chicken gizzards

Walking into the western hallway at phillip C. Showell elementary school will soon be an experience. Gallons of paint and hundreds of students will tell the story of selbyville in a soon-to-be-unveiled mural that fills the entire wing.

Selbyville is the hometown for most of the 340 students, which makes the history project among the most important they’ll ever do, guided by their own art teacher and teacher of the year, laurie hall, and local artist john donato.

“at the reveal, visitors will begin by watching a short documentary of the mural process and then [student] ambassadors will lead tour groups through the ‘museum’ while ‘guards’ (our boys with purpose group) protect some valuable selbyville memorabilia on loan from various community members,” hall said.

“you don’t want this to be a secret,” donato said. “I urge people to come look at it, because it’s not what you thought you were going to see.”


Known for partnering with area schools, donato helped PCS paint a “growth mindset” mural last year.Hall said but the new 310-foot hallway project was a major and special undertaking. They kept researching and adding new details up until the end.

The 340 students and some community members painted for about a month. Finally, donato added the finishing touches, making the bright colors pop with thick black lines and accents.

Sussex county’s story is one of resourcefulness, as told chronologically down the hallway. The dinosaurs ruled and died, but life continued. Selbyville was “strawberry capital of the world” until blights ruined the industry. When ocean view’s cecile steele was mistakenly sent 500 baby chicks, she rolled up her sleeves and started the modern poultry industry. Selbyville’s mumford sheet metal answered the call to build chicken houses and equipment. The overabundance of manure was used as fertilizer. Today, the entrepreneurial spirit continues in the area’s tourism industry.

In a mural that calls for a second look, or more, guests will find local businesses, landmarks, words of encouragement, bits of history and the students’ own special messages and memories.Donato said

“it’s so much more than just a painting,” donato said, and it will keep the students thinking every time they visit the hallway of the arts. “since they painted it, they own it.”

The students were given freedom and responsibility to paint, without donato looking over their shoulders every second. Each of the classes painted at least three times, also learning art techniques, such as blending, texture, highlights and shadow.

Hall made the schoolwide history project happen, starting with a year of planning and grant-writing. She helped the students with research, including walking tours of the town. She also brought in guest speakers, including local police officers, educators and business owners.

She said the kids were riveted to learn about the original phillip C. Showell himself. As a bonus for black history month, students met six of his descendants, “from step-grandchildren all the way down to the great-great-great-granddaughter,” hall said.Donato said

The original phillip C. Showell had donated the land for selbyville’s own “colored” school, serving grades 1 to 8. It was simply called selbyville 210C, until being renamed for its benefactor.

Students, hall said, were amazed to learn about the humble beginnings of the african-american man, born jan. 1, 1871. Throughout his life, he was a farmer, custodian and shoe shiner, who wasn’t married until age 43. The mural honors him as “custodian of the community,” seated near a large tree, with a grandchild swinging merrily nearby.

“here’s a person whose life really symbolized what the growth mindset is all about,” donato said. “you can be whatever you want to be, from wherever it is you are. Your status does not dictate — which is the key growth mindset — your status and your brain is always expandable. Your accomplishments are always expandable. It’s really just a choice you make.”