PEABODY — Oddsmakers have Kansas City beating the Patriots by three points as the Chiefs host the AFC Championship on Sunday, the last stop before Super Bowl LIII. But don’t tell that to the students at Captain Samuel Brown Elementary School.
Last week, more than 350 students from the K-5 school worked with Andover artist Rob Surette to create a 3½ foot by 4½ foot Lego portrait of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. As you walk past, it morphs from Brady to Belichick.
Surette commandeered the multipurpose room for three days. He enlisted the help of every student at the Brown, even those with learning challenges, to place 20,000 Lego cheese slope pieces onto small canvases. The plastic parts, which resemble a chunk of cheese from a cheese wheel, allows the picture to change from Brady to Belichick and back again.
But Surette, principal Lauren King, vice principal Justin Throwe, and teachers Jeremy Hincman and Diane Bugler kept secret the identity of the dynamic New England Patriots duo until the reveal at a schoolwide assembly on Friday.
“I told them I won’t reveal what it is,” he said. “But they could have fun guessing.”
And they did.
Jayna Pizzo, 9, was convinced it was a portrait of the principal.
“I’m not sure, but I thought I saw the side of Mrs. King’s face and an ear,” said the fourth-grader.
Carl Champigny, 9, said it could be a copy of a painting on the classroom wall that features a church overlooking an ocean.
Surette, 47, who calls himself the world’s fastest portrait artist, has had more than two decades of experience creating art. He painted a 6-foot portrait of the Statue of Liberty in five minutes on the Fourth of July on Good Morning America. He has pictured famous people from David Ortiz to Mother Teresa.
His canvas is not limited to acrylic paint and Legos.
In 2015, he won the Ripley’s Believe It or Not recycled art contest for his portrait of Taylor Swift made from more than 17,000 gumballs.
But he seems even more comfortable in the classroom. Surette has visited 4,000 schools in 24 years and his canvases have included 500 historical figures, musicians, movie stars, TV stars and athletes.
Fourth-grader Kaylee DiNicola couldn’t have pictured a better time in class.
The 9-year-old, sporting a New England Patriots sweatshirt, said she was thrilled to learn the artist-in-residence came equipped with Legos, the acclaimed interlocking plastic building blocks of childhood memories, and not paint.
“I love Legos and pretty much build something that I dream of everyday,” she said.
King said the project not only uplifts the students but the faculty as well.
“It’s all about people who come together to do amazing things,” she said.
As students exited the classroom, Surette said he hoped they felt uplifted.
“I know that some kids have difficult situations at home,” he said. “In inner city schools I’ve been told 15 percent of the students are homeless. I’m trying to make a little bit of a difference. Art is just the vehicle. I want them to feel happy about themselves, and more positive about life.”
As everyone gathered in the auditorium, there was a rousing cheer when the student-made double portrait of Brady and Belichick was unveiled.
Fifth-grader Liam Goldsworthy said the project was inspiring.
“I think it’s really cool,” he said. “We’re all contributing our strengths to make something big and inspirational.”