SafeNest Mural Project
Adding positive Energy in the Community
Sometimes the simplest thing can make a remarkable difference in someone's life. As an extension of the Art of Inspiration Project, I wanted to do a free wall mural for charity and contribute to the sociological and spiritual healing in the community. I chose Safe Nest shelter for abused women and children, a cause I feel strongly about. I wanted to do the word “Hope” as I thought it was the one thing that everyone who went through those doors had in common. Hope that their lives could be better, hope to live free of fear, and hope that SafeNest can actually help them do it. I was introduced to Liz Wheeler, CEO of SafeNest by friend Patrick Duffy, CEO of the Nevada School of Art. We were given a tour of one of their secure facilities and we selected a wall in the resident dining hall to paint the mural. The wall was painted a dark purple color which gave the room a dark and somewhat dreary feel. It felt depressing in there quite frankly. It screamed for a splash of color and vitality.
The wall was textured and my art style requires a smooth surface to allow painting the straight lines and sharp edges that are the hallmark of my art. Two days of troweling mud and sanding had the wall ready for primer and a coat of white paint. That change alone made a world of difference in the character of the room.
I decided to create a three piece mural. I wanted the mural to be bright, colorful, and uplifting. I also wanted it to be tangibly functional in providing space that would allow residents to express their feelings to others in their situation. I decided to do a three piece mural. The center part would be the word “Hope”. On each side of that I would make an interactive panel where residents could express their thoughts and be engaged directly in the mural project. I wanted this mural to be theirs, a part of who they are, and provide a platform to express their thoughts on Hope and their experience at the shelter. The panel on the left would be labeled “What Hope Means to Me” and the panel on the right would be labeled “Messages of Hope to Future Residents.” My intention was that the residents could write directly on the wall about their journey, their definition of hope, and send messages of hope to future residents that might ease their apprehension or help them with the advice of experience in going through the program at the shelter. Pay it forward, so to speak.
With a fresh coat of smooth paint I was ready to start drawing. Two days of layout and drawing and I was finally able to begin the fun part of painting the mural. I selected eight different colors and had sample jars mixed up at Lowes in an eggshell latex interior wall paint. I felt this would be the most durable in a dining facility.
Reaction from the residents was immediate and positive. They loved the bright cheerful colors and were impressed by how much the character of the room changed, even as the painting was in progress. Actual painting of the mural took about a week. During this time I had the opportunity to get to know some of the residents and hear a bit about their personal stories. I have to say that getting to know these people was one of the most uplifting experiences of my life. The bravery to do what they had done, uprooting their life, gathering up their children, and leaving what little support structure they had behind to carry on in the hope that they were doing the right thing and that everything would work out for the better was truly inspirational. These women stepped off a cliff with little more than hope and faith that Safe Nest would be able to guide them to a better existence free of abuse and fear. I’m not sure I would have the strength to do that if I were in their place.
What was once a dark and depressing place was now bright, colorful, and filled with positive energy. I noticed a distinct difference in the residents as they entered the dining hall. They seemed more cheerful and upbeat. This was more than enough reward for my labors. It is heartwarming to know that this simple act could make such a dramatic difference and I felt blessed to be able to contribute to that.
When I left the facility for the last time I had mixed emotions. On the one hand I was very happy with the way the mural turned out and the positive effect it had on residents and staff alike. On the other hand it was a sad occasion as I had to bid one of my creations goodbye. Before leaving I penned my own thoughts on the wall. In the space for "What Hope Means to Me" I wrote:
"When surrounded by darkness, hope provides the strength and determination to find our way back into the light"
And in the space for "Messages of Hope to Future Residents" I wrote:
" Hope has brought you to this doorstep, don't look back. For behind you lie only broken dreams. Ahead of you is where new dreams become real".
I returned to the shelter a month later for the press release photo shoot. I was pleased that a dozen residents had already taken the opportunity to pen their thoughts on the wall. The messages were positive and just what I had hoped for. I chatted with a few residents that stopped by the photoshoot. They told me stories of how this mural provided a daily reminder of why they were there and how positive it made them feel toward a better future. I could not possibly be happier for them.
From left to right; Scott Bauer, artist; Liz Wheeler SafeNest CEO; and Patrick Duffy, CEO of the Nevada School of Art.