During the spring and summer of 2014 while working on the Dreamweaver mural in the Clifton Art Alley, another ambitious project came to fruition. At the time my mom, Helen Morris, was working at Lutheran Sunset Ministries in marketing and community relations, and nearing retirement. She's well known for her good ideas and execution of those ideas in our small community. Inspired by the art I was creating, she had an idea...What if they turn the 300' retaining wall left over from the demolition of the old nursing facility into a mural wall?
This was the kickoff point for getting residents involved in the arts at Lutheran Sunset Ministries. In addition to beautifying the campus, the goal of the mural project was to collaborate with residents and employees. A poll was taken, residents were asked what they wanted to see painted on the wall. Many submitted hand drawings of their ideas. This was great, as it acted as a guide for the paintings.
Mom, along with 4 employees and 4 residents from Rainbow began painting one spring day. They had gathered paints and supplies, and got to work attempting to draw sunflowers. That day, I was down at Art Alley and get a call from mom. "Megan, can you come help us draw these sunflowers?" I arrived, and quickly began free-handing giant sunflowers across one stretch of wall. I was done within an hour and was recruited to continue supplying my skills. We finished the sunflower wall in 5 days, and moved on to the farm wall and wildflower wall.
We painted the walls in sections, the first length of sunflowers to be completed was 10' tall x 75' wide. The entire length of the wall is 300', all of which we painted. This is quite an accomplishment for the crew of 9, and goes to show that with a great team, dedication, encouragement and consistency, anything can be accomplished. It takes endurance to complete any large painting, especially one of this magnitude.
The mural took about 7 months from start to finish, April to October. Most days I'd arrive between 8:00 and 8:30am to find the residents ready for a break. They had been up and painting since 7:00am! As we dove deeper into the project, their enthusiasm and confidence grew. They were so proud to be part of such a significant project, and enjoyed have a purpose and a goal each day. During the later part of summer, it became difficult to paint outside and stand the heat. Ace Hardware in Clifton donated a giant tarp that we installed from the rails on top of the wall so we could paint in the shade. It helped, but it was still challenging to say the least. Mom retired from Sunset on October 22nd, and returned the following day to seal the mural. It was a great mark to leave after a long career with such a great organization.
The wall was initially printed then painted the mural with a water-based exterior paint, and applied a clear coat sealer upon completion. I generally like to use paint with primer already in it for reassurance. Concrete is a great surface to paint on as well. Instead of paint for drawing some of the mural features, we would use a giant sharpie pen. It works faster and cleaner than paint, and disappears with 2 coats of paint.
During this same period I began teaching small art classes at Sunset. Typically we'd have about 4 residents at a time. As classes progressed, more became interested and wanted to try their hand at art.
I remember one class in particular:
I had set up 4 easels at a table, paint and brushes ready. Residents gathered and 3 quickly stepped up to paint. One easel remained empty. A lady had wheeled her chair up next to the easel, and when I asked her if she'd like to paint, she shook her head and said "no". I went about preparing the others to paint. After a few minutes had passed looked back to see the woman still sitting beside the easel. I went back to her and asked her what her favorite color was. She said "pink". So I asked "if I drew the outline of something, say a butterfly, would you like to fill it in with pink paint?" She said sure and pulled up to the easel. She painted diligently during the class, not saying a word or needing assistance. By the end, she was standing up out of her wheelchair admiring her work and smiling, and asked if we'd make sure to put it up front to display with the other paintings. She literally could not take her eyes of her work. A nurse later told us they'd never seen her smile, nor get so interested in something. It still pulls at my heart to think about her and the amazing impact art has on people. It brings life to them, and I believe the painting classes at Sunset have done that for residents. Though I'm currently not teaching, classes have continued under the instruction of other volunteers. Residents also take part in an annual art show hosted at the Bosque Arts Center.