With 92,000 square feet of space that has to be transformed, "it is a mammoth project," Ross said.

Fostering positive sense of community

Scheinman's list of clients began with her own high school in New York, which hired her when she was a student to paint a mural of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence for the superintendent's office in 1975. "It's still there," she said.

Other clients include Loch Raven Academy and Rodgers Forge Elementary School in Towson, the Janet and Frank Kelly Center for Autism in Brooklyn, Md., and the Alamo Navajo Reservation School in Magdalena, N.M.

Scheinman established NS Studios more than 15 years ago to mentor young artists and help them use their artistic skills to support themselves, as she has.

"I didn't have to compromise what I painted in order for me to support myself," she said.

NS Studios has been "a wonderful place to have," said Garrett Ames-Ledbetter, 24, who created the 4-foot nose. "It has brought people together to establish a small community of artists who all do work of their own on the side."

Scheinman has curated for galleries and museums, created licensed art under another name for retailers and produced architectural illustrations. 

She said she owes her architectural illustration skills to her husband of 30 years, Jim Wheeler, now president of the architectural firm Ayers Saint Gross. They have two daughters, Alena and Kerstin, 24 and 28. 

Scheinman's work with school environments has been her most personally rewarding business, she said.

She was at Monarch recently working on a mural of a pet store when she overheard a student say, "When I grow up, I want to own a store just like that."

"That's exactly what we all wanted to hear," she said. 

Monarch's lower school librarian Wendy LaTour-Morone said she enjoys the lively additions to the school.

"The murals just draw you in," she said. "I think it's important to know about history and to stimulate the imagination." 

Monarch's student body is 95-percent African American and situated in the Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello area. Once  predominantly white and affluent in the 1800s, it is now is predominantly black and fighting the decline and disinvestment that affects many urban neighborhoods.

Monarch plans call for a second phase of streetscapes that show new stores and restaurants that the neighborhood could have in the future. Community activists could bring developers and business people to the school to show them the streetscapes and invite their participation, Ross explained. The school could be the anchor for the revitalization of the entire area, he said.

"What goes up on the walls will be a road map for the redevelopment of the neighborhood — a vision for how students and teachers can apply their learning to help the community transform itself," Ross said. "This school will be far more than a place to educate students."

Scheinman concurred: "I felt that using the school environment as a tool to show what revitalization could bring would foster a sense of pride in the students and their families."

"We're very proud of the project," Ross said "It's unique. I think public schools in general should adopt the approach. It doesn't cost that much more to create a school this way," he said.

Randy Sovich, the Towson architect who transformed the Coca-Cola Building into the school, agreed. 

"A lot of schools are being built with blank walls. It's a dimension missing in education," Sovich said.

Scheinman said she esteems being a part of the movement to transform educational environments.

"Being able to use art to effect change is a powerful thing for an artist," she said. "I am very proud of what we at NS Studios do — to enhance environments to give children a positive sense of their communities and the world."