Reds' 'Murals with a Mission' program continues with 4th high school

May 10th, 2023

Students from Dixie Heights High School’s “Random Acts of Kindness” student group unveiled a new mural on May 5, the latest addition to Murals with a Mission powered by PNC.

The Cincinnati Reds and PNC launched the “Murals with a Mission” campaign in 2022 to create art at Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky high schools designed to elevate positive social messages for the student community. The first schools selected were Princeton High School and Mason High School, which both debuted their murals in November. Earlier this spring, Loveland High School became the third participant in the program, with the school’s Hope Squad unveiling their mural on March 31.

“PNC and the Reds share the same concern about the positive messages that our youth are hearing, so this is our way to go to schools in Reds Country and help them amplify positive messages in their hallways,” said Karen Forgus, Reds senior vice president of business operations. “We’re extremely proud and grateful to all four schools for welcoming in our Reds family and PNC partners and inviting the student body to be part of something that’s going to hang in their hallways for decades to come, reminding them that random acts of kindness are intentional.”

During a pep rally in front of the entire school, members of Dixie Heights’ Random Acts of Kindness, along with local artist Brent Billingsley, introduced 10 individual panels that together form the mural. Featured guests at the event included Forgus, along with PNC senior vice president and director of client and community relations Jessica Yankie and Dixie Heights principal Roger Stainforth. Mr. Redlegs and Rosie Red joined the fun as well.

“My first impression when coming to these schools is how incredibly mature and enthusiastic these students are,” Yankie said. “They understand the importance of the work they’re doing to instill positivity and build each other up. They’re excited and truly believe in the work they’re doing. And it’s important for us to see the legacy that they’re leaving for the future generations walking these halls.”

Surrounding the large paintings featuring some of the Random Act of Kindness members are Polaroid pictures of the rest of the group, which chronicle their experience working on the mural. This unique feature is what helped distinguish the project from the three other schools Billingsley has worked with so far.

“This particular high school has what I call the ‘RAK Pack,’” Billingsley said. “Meeting them and talking with them about what they do -- not because they’re getting paid or any accolades, but just because it’s the right thing to do -- we wanted to capture that. So we did a photo shoot and captured them doing random acts of kindness. What was special about this one was by including the photos from the shoot that we surrounded the composition with, we got to use the whole RAK Pack. So this one was all-inclusive.”

The final product, which was conceptualized, designed and painted in just two weeks, will be displayed in the cafeteria for all the school to see.

“I’m really excited,” said Maddisen Strunk, a Dixie Heights student and Random Act of Kindness member. “I think it’s going to be amazing to look back at it and tell people I painted that. I think it’s beautiful, especially putting the pictures around the painted photos.”

While this is the fourth school Billingsley has gone to for Mural With a Mission, it won’t be the last. He loves sharing his talents and spirit with local high schoolers, and their excitement about the murals always reinvigorates him.

The Reds and PNC plan to identify the next school for the program to reach come the start of a new school year in the fall. Armed with a paint brush and positive attitude, Billingsley will be ready.

“The Cincinnati Reds and PNC send me places to build relationships,” Billingsley said. “We use paint as a catalyst, to foster positive experiences, and share talents and gifts. We paint, but we do so much more than paint. What is most important is we spend time with each other. We paint, do poetry, sing, dance. It’s absolutely amazing.”