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Larger Than Life

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High schooler Hannah Bender creates a stunning mural at the Lake Mary Police Department

Hannah Bender is becoming quite the mural artist around town. Last summer, she painted a colorful Peace Day-themed mural in the teacher’s lounge at Lake Mary Preparatory School, where she is a junior. Then, over this past winter break, Hannah was commissioned by the Lake Mary Police Department to fill an entire wall with a mural representing The Thin Blue Line, a metaphor for law enforcement often symbolized with a black, white, and blue flag.

The wall was previously home to a collection of LMPD staff portraits, but Deputy Chief Mike Biles wanted to reimagine the space. Hoping to include a student in the project, he reached out to Lake Mary Prep in search of a talented young artist. Without hesitation, several faculty members recommended Hannah for the task.

Hannah, whose mother is also the registrar at Lake Mary Prep, remembers when she was initially asked about the project.

“I was nervous,” Hannah admits. “It was during study hall, and my mom never calls me out of study hall. When I went into her office, there were police officers there. So, initially, I was a little worried and confused. But for me, it was kind of spontaneous and very surprising.”

After agreeing to the project, Hannah met with Detective Juney Thompson and Officer Rebekah Matviak to get their vision for the mural and bounce around some ideas. They decided on a distressed interpretation of The Thin Blue Line flag with the addition of an officer’s silhouette.
“You can tell as soon as you meet her that she’s a very artistic person,” Detective Thompson says of Hannah. “She took it on and did great.”

The approximately 12-by-8-foot wall took four days to complete over winter break. Although Deputy Chief Biles jokes that dealing with the LMPD staff was probably the hardest part for Hannah, Hannah confides that getting the stars right was the most difficult aspect of the mural.
“I spent a lot of time on the stars, getting them to look uniform,” she says. “I’m slightly a perfectionist when it comes to those sorts of things.”
When it comes to art itself, Hannah is considering studying the field as a minor in college.

“What’s funny is that art didn’t fit into my schedule this year,” Hannah says. “So this kind of just came and found me.”

The original plan was to rehang the staff portraits on top of the mural, but Deputy Chief Biles likes the mural so much, he’s reconsidering.

“This thing is so nice, we don’t know if we want to cover it up with pictures now!” laughs Detective Thompson. “The other officers love it. I was taken aback by the finished product. It exceeded expectations.”

Lake Mary Prep Headmaster Jack Delman is already campaigning for a Hannah original in the cafeteria. And a family friend of Hannah’s, and her own brother are also asking for her to add some color to their walls.

“We’ve projected her career!” says Deputy Chief Biles with a hearty chuckle.



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