Sixteen-year-old Madeline Chestnut spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday painting on what some would call an extremely large canvas.
“It’s not every day you get to paint on a building,” Chestnut said.
Chestnut, along with 12 other teenagers, volunteered to create a mural to cover graffiti on the backside of the Lawrence Art Guild’s 1109 Gallery.
Since the gallery opened in May 2009, the building has had problems with vandals tagging the back area. The Lawrence Art Guild suggested to the gallery’s landlord that a mural be painted to try to bring the graffiti to a halt. The plan to paint the backside of the building came together when the United Way Roger Hill Volunteer Center called the art guild wondering whether it had any projects teenagers could help with as part of its Summer of Service 2012, a program that gives teenagers the opportunity to volunteer and make a positive impact in the community.
Lawrence Art Guild president Amanda Monaghan thought allowing the teens to get involved and create the community artwork was the perfect project.
“With a mural we thought it would be like inspiration for (the teens and community) to keep art in mind and be inspired to make artwork,” Monaghan said.
The mural’s inspirational message to make art is written in the painting, literally.
Before beginning to paint, the volunteers split into teams, designed letters and voted on the best ones to create the phrase “make art.”
The letter “K” is made by the body of a girl holding a paintbrush. The letter “R” resembles a green, slimy monster.
“It’s nice to empower them, give them paint and brushes and tell them to go for it,” Kristina Crawford, Lawrence Art Guild member, said. “We really just let the kids do it; they totally took ownership of the project.”
Topeka artist Alex Lancaster helped make the mural special by volunteering to airbrush details onto the painting.
Volunteers and members of the Lawrence Art Guild hope the mural will deter whoever has been tagging the building.
“It’s an unspoken rule in street or public art that taggers leave those areas alone out of respect for other artists, so hopefully they’ll respect those kids’ work and leave it alone,” Monaghan said.
The volunteers finished the project Wednesday, and the Lawrence Art Guild will hold a reception and unveil the mural during Final Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 27 at the gallery, 1109 Mass.