“The Era of public-school decoration limited to milky-white plaster casts and sepia portraits in black frames of Washington and Lincoln…is yielding to that of colored prints on the classroom walls, and mural paintings in the entrance halls and auditoriums…. Color, action, drama are all used to etch indelibly the educational precepts and ideals."
-Chas. Loring, “Mural Painting in Schoolhouses,” School Board Journal, 1931
During the 1920s and 30s, Lloyd decorated the auditoriums and classrooms of several Southern California schools. Most of these projects are documented only in black and white, but a color drawing for the kindergarten of the Stoneman Elementary School in San Marino, completed in 1930, shows the brilliant hues and lively narrative content that characterized her works for young audiences. Paintings such as these appealed to children’s imaginations by incorporating recognizable characters from fables, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes. They also satisfied pedagogical concerns, as many of the stories conveyed a moral message.
Images of Lloyd's murals for the Stoneman kindergarten appeared in the September 1931 issue of the School Board Journal, a periodical dedicated to public education. The feature presented the decorated classroom as a model learning environment that would inspire and instill an “unconscious art-sense” in young minds. For this project, Lloyd chose to combine characters from "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Puss in Boots," and other well knwon children's stories with fairies and talking flowers that were her own inventions. During the 1990s, the murals were uncovered and restored after having been painted over in decades past.
The South Pasadena Junior High School is one of Lloyd’s best known projects, and an early milestone in her career. Completed in 1928, the work included stenciling the coffered ceilings of the library and auditorium, and decorating the proscenium arch with geometric designs and a large-scale scenic mural. The Madonna of the Covered Wagon, as the mural is titled, measures nine feet high by forty feet long. It depicts a pioneer family encamped in Yosemite Valley, with mother and baby painted in the image of a Madonna and child. The inscription below the painting, “Hardships strengthen the body as something the mind,” emphasizes the message of perseverance, a popular theme for school murals at that time.
The mural tells the story of a pioneer family encamped at the close of the day in Yosemite Valley. Rugged El Capitan and the soft clouds that hover over it, are warm in the glow of the evening sunset. The setting suggests something of the peace and contentment that fills the soul when great adventure has been courageously undertaken and carried thru to success.
-Lucile Lloyd, notes on The Madonna of the Covered Wagon, ca. 1928