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Tampa artist gives back to students through middle school mural

Sligh Middle School mural
Posted at 4:58 PM, Apr 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-15 16:58:20-04

TAMPA, Fla. — From a lion to a dolphin to an elephant, there’s not an animal Tampa artist Michael Vahl isn’t afraid to spray paint onto the side of a building. This month he is giving back to his local community by way of a giant mural at Sligh Middle School.

With dimensions of 120-feet-wide and 30-feet-tall its one of the largest murals you’ll find at a middle school anywhere.

“I grew up in a similar community back home in Los Angeles so being here it really made me think, ‘what if somebody back then when I was in school did this for the kids,’ so I just thought it would be a great idea to give back to these kids,” said Vahl.

When finished, the mural will feature a dolphin, penguin, cobra, elephant and lion right in the center.

“Each child when they come to Sligh Middle School they are put into a house similar to the film Harry Potter and these are all five houses with the school,” said Vahl.

Taking on a project like this isn’t cheap, so in stepped WWE Superstar and Global Ambassador Titus O'Neil.

“That man gives back so much, he’s a very special individual, and such a good guy, and he inspired me,” said Vahl.

O'Neil donated all the equipment and materials, including more than 500 cans of spray paint, while Vahl is donating weeks of time and dedication.

“You know I want these kids and these families over here to have pride and it’s great when you can bring people like Michael on board who has a vision,” said O’Neil.

The mural sits right in the center of campus, already gaining plenty of support and enthusiasm from students.

“A lot of them screaming at us, they’re like, ‘you’re doing a great job,’” said Vahl. “It makes me feel really good, it does, it makes me feel like I accomplished something.”

There are even plans to let some of the students finish the bottom portion of the mural. For O'Neil and Vahl, they hope it’s the beginning of several projects together.

For more information on Vahl, go to or follow him on Instagram.