Local artist volunteers to paint mural at Tahoe Valley Elementary School | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Local artist volunteers to paint mural at Tahoe Valley Elementary School

For 60 hours over 10 weeks, local artist Nick Akins spent his free time — outside of his full-time job — painting a gigantic mural of snowy Lake Tahoe at Tahoe Valley Elementary School.

"Oh my goodness, the kids love it," said Tahoe Valley Elementary School Principal Christina Grubbs. "Nick has been amazing. He volunteered all of his time and energy. All we did was pay for the paint.

"The students have been watching the mural evolve, which is key because it's shown them that art and real craftsmanship doesn't happen over night. It's truly a work of the heart, and it takes patience and time."

Akins took on the daunting task of painting the 50-by-25-foot grooved side of the school at the end of August.

"They've been trying to find an artist to do this wall for many, many years and just haven't found anyone to do it — and my guess is that one reason is all these little grooves here pose a real challenge, plus the windows," said Akins. "But I took on the challenge and started it, and I was just able to finish it before it got too cold to paint."

The mural depicts two wintery slopes, dotted with trees, in front of Lake Tahoe. A small sailboat — "I had an accidental drip that I needed to cover up," laughed Akins — floats in the water surrounded by snowy mountains.

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Akins has been painting for 20 years in a style that he describes as graffiti art.

"Ever since I moved to Tahoe I've been fascinated by the landscape here," said Akins, who has other Tahoe-inspired pieces hanging at Sidellis Lake Tahoe Brewery and Restaurant. "This is by far the biggest thing I've ever done."

Though Akins battled an uneven "canvas," rainstorms and temperatures that required a heat lamp to help the paint dry properly, it was worth it, he said.

"While I was working the kids would come up, ask questions, thank me or say, 'I like your painting,'" said Akins. "That always put a smile on my face."

To see more of Akins' work, follow along on Instagram @NickAkinsArt.