Be Anything - Mural with teens in Chilton, WI!
“Be Anything” - The image shows a face split in two- one half being your average reader and the other a fantastical character accessed through the book she is reading. The meaning is: “Through books, movies and events from our local library, we are able to experience a different story and have aspects of our own lives reflected back to us. We can enter into the life of another in a way surpassing our own limits. Connecting with their inner strength to discover our own, as well as seeing parts of our lives that may need attention & growth. You can also find subjects of interest and learn new things to take action towards your own dreams.”
This mural was created for the Chiltion Public Library’s summer reading program- intended to not only spark wonder in those passing by, but also bring the community together by inviting teens to assist in it’s creation. This mission was certainly a success with teens arriving daily eager to help, as well as receiving an overwhelming response from passers-by who stopped consistently to tell us we were doing a great job, give us snacks, or just to say “thank you.”
I created the design to allow teens to choose something simple, or more complex based on their skill level, and encourage them to try pieces they felt were more difficult to get them out of their comfort zone, with the reassurance that “you can always paint over it.” Also included were images and colors that “popped” so they could experiment with shading and abstract while using fun vibrant colors against the black (mystical) background. The original design had only the name of the mural, and later, to let the teens practice painting letters (and give a shout out to the library), we added “Chilton Public Library” in a blue font. After the teens were finished, I added in some more depth to the background, giving the mural dimension and create a flow. We had planned to use water-based spray paint, but unfortunately wind was not on our side most of the week. Thursday afternoon I was able to guide them through a quick tutorial, providing dust masks and allowing them to experiment with the spray, but most were so engrossed in their already started pieces, they just wanted to get back to their creations. =) To improve communication skills - I asked some teens who were good at shading to assist in helping teach those who never tried it before. And for the more shy individuals, they had a chance to shine through their creativity and face some fears of being seen, by working on the busiest street in town and engage with those who stopped to talk about the mural, or say “good job.” It was an intense journey for all of us with the sun beating down, hardening our paints within minutes. Oftentimes they were sent home in the early afternoon when it began to get too hot, which allowed time for me to work on the upper portion, when I could, with spray or wall paint, sometimes getting in 12 hours per day.
On the final day with the teens, I discovered a few from different schools made new best friends, and all were so grateful for the experience, “I love that I get to be outside and be part of something so cool.” The building owner, Kathy also said “thank you” as she too had a flood of people coming in to talk about our work on her wall. For years I wanted to paint in my hometown, but didn’t realize how much it would mean to see the community so appreciative and be able to share my passion with everyone there. Thank you Chilton, Kathy Schmitzer and the team of Auto Source, Teens who helped in the creation, and of course Chllton Public Library for working with me on this project.