BAGC kids, LAC artist almost finished with downtown mural

Parkview Huntington Boys & Girls Club members (from left to right) Natalee Searles, 9; Harlee Mason, 9; and Zander Mason, 11; receive guidance from LaFontaine Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Angela Ellsworth (third from left) as they paint a rainbow’s stripes on a section of a mural at the club on Monday, Oct. 26. The mural will be displayed in downtown Huntington after it is finished.
Parkview Huntington Boys & Girls Club members (from left to right) Natalee Searles, 9; Harlee Mason, 9; and Zander Mason, 11; receive guidance from LaFontaine Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Angela Ellsworth (third from left) as they paint a rainbow’s stripes on a section of a mural at the club on Monday, Oct. 26. The mural will be displayed in downtown Huntington after it is finished. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Nov. 2, 2015.

In a Chinese folk tale, a poor boy named Liang receives a magic paintbrush that brings whatever he paints with it to life. The proverb is about kindness and generosity, as Liang uses the paintbrush to help those less fortunate around him rather than for his own selfish desires.

It’s in that spirit that the youngsters at the Parkview Boys & Girls Club of Huntington County have helped bring to life the tale’s inspiration in a huge mural conceptualized by Huntington artist Angela Ellsworth.

Ellsworth is the artist-in-residence at the LaFontaine Arts Council, which is sponsoring the project through the Outreach Arts in Education program. She explains the club members began working on the mural in the fall of 2014 and will likely get it finished in the next few weeks.

“Last fall the kids got sheets of paper passed out at homework time that said, ‘How would I help my community if I was given a magic paintbrush?’” she explains. “All the kids wrote down what they would do to help their community. Part of the mural, in the rainbow when it’s done, there will be handprints and letters you’ll be able to see throughout the rainbow. The letters will represent all the words they wrote down to help the community.”

This is the third year for the mural project, with the other two finished artworks hanging inside the club. After a hiatus while the new Boys & Girls Club was under construction, the young artists got back to work on their latest masterpiece.

“The ideas that I come up with to try and utilize as many kids at the club as possible to get a chance to work on the project and just the ability to work together to see a project finished is exciting,” Ells- worth says. “It’s going to be seen by a lot of the public. The kids will be able to see it and show their families and know that they worked on a part of it. I’m proud to be asked to be a part of it.”

The current mural consists of nine plywood boards that will be linked together to make a 12-foot by 24-foot picture of one of the club members wielding the magic paintbrush, creating a rainbow made up of handprints. The medium is acrylic and latex paints, with a protective coat added to help the mural weather the often unforgiving Hoosier weather.

Several members of the Boys & Girls Club have been painting the rainbow’s stripes on the mural. Others have added their handprints to the colorful stripes, each kid lining up to make his or her own special contribution to the project as Ellsworth guides them.

Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters and Mike Worthington, community relations chair at Ecolab, also lent their palms to be painted and stamped the mural along with the young club members. Ecolab provided a grant to fund the project through its foundation, LAC Director Debbie Dyer explains.

“They have sponsored this project since its inception in 2011,” she says. “Ecolab has been such a monetary supporter of this programming for the four years.”

Fetters says after the mural is finished, it will be displayed prominently for the public to enjoy.

“It will be somewhere downtown. I’ve got a few ideas, but we need to see the finished product and the dimensions,” Fetters says. “But it’s great what the kids are doing.”

“I’m thinking like we should do this a lot,” says Natalee Searles, 9, who made her contribution to the mural by painting the red stripes on the rainbow, using long strokes of her paintbrush to smooth the color onto the wooden “canvas.” Natalee knows what she would do if her paintbrush had some magic in its bristles.

“I would pick up the trash and wouldn’t let trash be all over this place,” she says. “And no one could sell drugs anymore.”

Another club member, Alexia Ramirez, 9, says she enjoys being able to help make a work of art.

“Whatever is in your mind you can draw on a piece of paper, and you can show other people what you have and what was in your mind,” she says.

However, Alexia became more serious about what she would use a magic paintbrush to accomplish.

“I would give other people, like if they don’t have shelter, I’d give them shelter,” she says. “People that needed clothes and stuff, I would go around and see if people had clothes and give them to me so I could give them to people that don’t have clothes.”

Dyer says after the mural is completed, a new Outreach Arts in Education project will begin at the Boys & Girls Club in January.