Thursday, October 18, 2007

Did I ever tell you about the Merchants of Hope?

A recent Craigslist ad looking for a muralist, reminded me of a project I did last summer on an institutional home for children on the way to foster care.
It was interesting from the stand point of doing murals for a public client rather than a private one... of putting together a program of decoration that has meaning and signifigance rather than just decorative beauty, and working with other painters on a large project.

The client is the Merchants of Hope at 2222 N. Lamar. They are a children's home whose original focus was for children from the ages of 7-17, who are removed from their families and are in need of protection. An old nursing home was repurposed and renovated by Oli Ejirka and her dedicated staff. They painted the inside of the building in bright colors but couldn't manage to make the exterior as friendly as the people who would manage it. The building itself is a utilitarian relic of the '60s and all of us were concerned that it's aspect was grim and forbidding to children who may come to it in shock, in distress, and certainly with apprehension.
The murals were designed to create a more playful, serene, child friendly environment in the building's only exterior green space.

My local decorative painting organization Stencil Artisans' League (SALI) was looking or a group project and we were recommended to the Merchants of Hope by CASA. Here was a project we could all work on, and that would benefit our city's most vulnerable citizens.

We brainstormed for a design and rejected several until we lit upon the idea of Castaway Children. We thought the current interest in Pirates, and the TV show Survivor would help create interest in the imagery. As we considered it, the idea of children, who are castaways, pulling together to help each other and themselves sounded like a great metaphor for the children who would be in the facility. So we organized the long walls into vignettes that could be simply executed and that would have clear messages. Judy Morgan took on the task of going to local paint companies and getting us donated supplies (Thanks Kelly Moore in particular!) thumbnail sketches were drawn and the murals were underway.

More tomorrow!