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Uniquely FernLeaf Mural

Part of the mission of FernLeaf is to create a canvas for its staff, families, and students to explore their unique passions and aptitudes. This commitment attracted Joy Hof to join the FernLeaf staff as a student art teacher in 2021.

Joy had recently completed a multi-year project painting murals on the 3rd floor of Mission Children's Hospital, and she was ready to hone her skills in the classroom directly teaching students. Seeing an opportunity f

or some FernLeaf serendipity to play out, we wasted no time asking Joy to share her creative vision with the FernLeaf and Fletcher communities by painting a uniquely FernLeaf mural on the side of our Building B facing busy Howard Gap Rd.

Of course, the first question was “what should the mural be?”

Mary Rutkowski, FernLeaf’s environmental education teacher, often shares with students in her classes and at staff meetings, that Western North Carolina is a unique ecosystem with exceptional biodiversity, home to some 28,000 species of plants and animals. While it is easy to drive to work and school every day singularly focused on the daily whirlwind of tasks and to-dos, it’s valuable, even critical, to be reminded of the immense natural beauty of our surroundings. Fortunately, Joy’s vision for the FernLeaf mural was to weave the natural wonders of this place into the fabric of FernLeaf’s mission "to foster a rich learning environment that embodies the essence of community, understanding and the human spirit."

From the white squirrels that have migrated north to colonize the school’s Creek Campus, to the bobcat that visits the school’s “critter cam,” to the fishing club’s afternoons of catch and release in Cane Creek, what makes FernLeaf a K-12 experience like no other is closely tied to the natural world.

When asked about her vision for the mural, Joy summarized it succinctly: “When I captured the animals and the silhouettes and placed them in front of the background of the Blue Ridge Mountains, open morning sky, and creek it was to showcase the natural habitat around us and the children that we get to take care of, respect, learn from, and invest in.“

Joy certainly has left her impression on the FernLeaf and Fletcher communities with this mural. Joy’s future goals include using the proceeds from painting community murals to purchase farmland to create a small working farm used to host art camps, therapeutic art workshops, and art classes for children and their families. Sounds like a perfect FernLeaf fieldwork opportunity!

Joy is currently an art teacher at Roots and Wings School of Art and Design as well as working as a therapeutic mentor at a treatment facility for young adolescents. You can find more about Joy and her art at:

You can find the uniquely FernLeaf mural at 56 Howard Gap Rd. Fletcher NC 28732 across from Bill Moore (Fletcher) Park.

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