NEW ALBANY — A new mural is offering messages of hope and motivation to residents at a New Albany emergency shelter.
Community members and youth volunteers worked together throughout the week to paint a mural on the wall of a building at 601 E. Market St., which directly faces St. Elizabeth's Catholic Charities' emergency shelter for women and children. The 500-square foot mural features the word "aspire" against a sky blue background, and it is dotted with brightly-colored imagery such as hot air balloons, butterflies, flowers and lightbulbs.
Members of the Catholic HEART Workcamp, a youth service program consisting of teams from around the country, were among those involved in the painting of the mural. The organization has partnered with St. Elizabeth for 14 years, and six teams have worked on various other projects at St. Elizabeth throughout the week, including mulching the playground, building shelves, painting bedrooms and planting flowers on the campus.
Staff from the Carnegie Center for Art and History partnered with St. Elizabeth to create the mural. Julie Leidner, educator for the Carnegie, guided staff and volunteers in the design and painting of the artwork. Several other community members, including family members of St. Elizabeth staff, also volunteered their time throughout the week to pain the mural.
Mark Casper, agency director at St. Elizabeth, said by sprucing up the campus, the youth volunteers will help residents feel at home at St. Elizabeth — though the shelter serves women and children experiencing homelessness, he doesn't want it to feel like a homeless shelter. St. Elizabeth's shelter offers support for pregnant women and single mothers with children under the age of five.
He hopes they feel motivated after seeing the imagery and message of the mural.
"Every time they come and go, the word 'aspire' hits them," he said. "Sometimes it's baby steps, but every day, they can move forward and be a little better and pursue their goals. We've got a total of 40 to 50 women and children, and at any one time, there's 15 children. It's pleasant, just like their playground. It just sends the right message that life is still in front of them."
Nicole Cardwell, communications specialist with St. Elizabeth's, said they have spent the past week "praying away the rain" as they have completed the mural. The work started Monday and finished Thursday afternoon.
"It's pretty amazing what you can get done in four days, from a blank wall Monday morning and knowing that we might not get a drop of paint on because the rain wasn't supposed to move out," she said. "On Tuesday, we had most of the lettering filled in, and it really felt like a project we would be able to complete, because we really wanted to do it with our Catholic HEART Work teams here."
Jasper resident Jade Mundy, 15, was one of the youth volunteers who painted the mural with her Catholic HEART Workcamp team. She said she enjoyed volunteering in an artistic endeavor.
"It's been an experience," she said. "I've never really painted this much before — like I've only painted bathrooms and bedrooms and that kind of stuff, so this was kind of new to me. I'm not like any art class or anything, so this is different."
Alex Moehn traveled to Southern Indiana from Wisconsin as a chaperone for Catholic HEART Workcamp. She was excited when she learned about her team's opportunity to paint a mural for St. Elizabeth, since painting a mural was one of the top items on her bucket list.
She said painting the mural has been an inspirational experience, and she hopes that those who view it feel the same way.
"Just looking at this wall and seeing how pretty it is makes me happy and makes me want to work harder to make it more perfect," she said. "I hope people who are coming through here can feel the same way, and it can bring them at least joy, at minimum. If they don't find it inspiring, at least it will make them happy for a little while."
The Carnegie staff served mainly as art consultants for the project, while the volunteers provided the "blood, sweat and tears," Leidner said. This was the first time the Carnegie has partnered with St. Elizabeth, and she was inspired to see how the volunteers, including the kids from Catholic HEART Workcamp, collaborated to complete the mural, even while facing some rainy days.
Leidner said while it is not immediately visible to the public, the mural is uplifting for anyone spending time around the St. Elizabeth campus, particularly those residing in the shelter.
"I think it’s going to brighten up many people’s days," she said. "The word 'aspire,' means to reach for improving yourself and your life and maybe even improving the world in some way. It's a simple message of hope and inspiration."