Sometimes you need a little art to add a burst of color, and hope, to your day.
That’s the idea behind new murals at the Foundation 2 Youth Shelter in SW Cedar Rapids — which at any given time houses up to 17 teens ages of 11 to 17 who are facing a crisis that requires them to live away from home.
“Our staff has talked for years about ways to make the entrance to the shelter more welcoming,” said Elisabeth Kissling, development and marketing director at Foundation 2.
“In the past, when a youth or family experiencing crisis walked into the youth shelter, the first thing that they saw was an expanse of eggshell colored walls. The idea for the murals never really crystallized until we connected with a local professional artist who could help to make this vision a reality.”
That artist was Dori Patrick, known for using bright colors and whimsical designs in her art work. Foundation 2 staff connected with Patrick a while back to have her lead monthly art classes.
“Dori really ‘got’ what we do at Foundation 2 and expressed a real desire to help our clients to express themselves through art,” Kissling said.
After working with the shelter residents for several months, Kissling realized Patrick was a good fit for the mural.
“She understands the struggles and joys facing our clients and was able to create something that speaks to what they need at that point in their lives,” Kissling said.
Patrick said she was excited and flattered when she was asked to work on the mural.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“I was also a little nervous, as it was a pretty big undertaking, but I knew this was an opportunity to bring some color and inspiration to kids in crisis and the staff at Foundation 2. So I didn’t hesitate to jump in,” Patrick said.
Jump in she did.
“I worked on the mural just as I do in my sketchbooks and in my own artwork, I just went for it. Fortunately, the staff at F2 were comfortable with that, and they just let me play,” she said.
Patrick said the only thing she had planned was putting inspiring words framed in color on the office wall.
“Everything else just evolved as I started painting,” she said. “I did think about some of the messages that I wanted to get across to the kids who walk through these doors. I wanted to uplift, inspire and comfort.”
She hopes her new murals not only bring hope and comfort but make the shelter seem less intimidating.
“Just imagine being a child in a situation that requires you to stay in a shelter,” Patrick said. “It’s got to be scary. I hope my art can add just a little bit of hope. I want them to know that they matter, and we see them.”
Patrick also said she was inspired by the staff, whom she got to know better through her time at the shelter working on the mural.
“They do very important, very hard work and seeing them on a daily basis doing their work made me realize how much it takes to keep a facility like this running smoothly,” she said.
Being surrounded with observers while working was entertaining too, she said.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“It was really fun when kids and staff came up to me to share their favorite part of the mural,” Patrick said. “Everyone had a different answer.”
Patrick said the feedback has been wonderful so far.
“It makes me blush. The staff say they love walking into this world of color, instead of the blank, institutional walls that were here before,” Patrick said. “The kids are also very complimentary. They sit and just look at it, searching for their favorite piece or their favorite quote. My work is full of layers/scribbles/hidden messages, so they have had fun picking out their favorite part.”
Kissling said the shelter couldn’t be more pleased with the result.
“Seeing the final product makes my heart happy. The murals are both beautiful and inspiring,” Kissling said. “Now the first things that our clients — and the staff who serve them — see when they walk into our youth shelter are inspiring messages of hope. Everyone is really positive about the finished project.”
The project was continued confirmation of the benefits of kids in crisis interacting with artists.
“These kids need to see there are many positive choices you can make and art making is a wonderful expression that many of them seem to enjoy,” Patrick said. “I have been thrilled to be a part of that, and we hope it continues.”
Kissling agreed, noting that the shelter is seeking money to continue its art therapy program with Patrick this summer and fall.
“Involving a local artist who understands our community and the population residing in our shelter only increases the impact,” Kissling said.