Mural Progress at Clark’s Crossing
I (Andrew Jendrzejewski here) and my spouse and colleague Amy DeLap have been diligently painting my landscape design in the old gym/auditorium at Clark’s Crossing now dubbed the Community Room. As of the Saturday before Thanksgiving we estimate that it is somewhere between one-half to two-thirds completed, as we begin to focus on the finer details and revisions. Already the residents think the river scene is beautiful.
The residents and staff keep tabs on what is new each day, walking in with a big “Hi Andy! Hi Amy!” We don’t just walk in and climb the scaffolds and paint all day as a regular contractor might. We greet any residents that might be around as we walk in. There is always an exchange of comments between us. My interaction with the residents is one of the greatest parts of doing this project. Once or twice a week one resident brings his guitar to the room to play while we are working, and lately I have been joining his guitar with a harmonica accompaniment. We missed the Halloween Party the residents invited us to, but we have already celebrated Thanksgiving with them as we were invited to their pitch-in early Thanksgiving dinner last Friday. It was the first time most saw me out of my painting clothes and a little dressed up! At that dinner we even met a former student of ours who now lives there. The project has become much more than a painting on a wall! Community development grows around the very things that offer a sense of place and pride.
It is obvious to us that the mural has distracted a number of residents from the physical health and other problems they face. Just coming down to see the mural seems to be a form of healing for a few of them. I don’t pretend that art cures illness, but I do believe that it can help to heal the mind and soul, which in turn can guide people toward a cure for their ills. This is a principle that I think the hospital and other offices in town might consider. There is benefit to be gained by purchasing and displaying authentic art, not factory-made or corporately collected prints, but truly creative work by artists. I think such practice would result in all of us seeing a difference in Vincennes as a whole. We might see more pride, more determination to make this town even greater than it is.
An example that I might note: One of the residents made a point of saying “Everywhere I look on the painting, I see something beautiful.” This response has been exactly my goal. I am using many visual devices to accomplish this, but my main concern is to make it a painting, rather than a typical mural. So I allow the paint to look “painterly” with energetic brushstrokes that are rather calligraphic, as opposed to strictly descriptive of detail. Yet the strokes add up to a recognizable landscape and recognizable details in the landscape. Other devices include play with color, pattern, positive negative relationships, and contrasts that urge the eye to explore the river scene.
“This reminds me of my home, actually several homes, we had along the White River. It looked just like that!” one person told me. “That looks like the river seven miles north where I used to live,” another person told me. “What part of the year is that scene?” one person asked. When the residents ask such questions, that tells me that they are involved with the painting, they are not thinking of their daily life problems. They are captivated if only for a few minutes.
This suggests one of the many values of art for our society and what we are trying to help accomplish for Vincennes’ Main Street and the hospital through our art activities. If music can “wake up” an Alzheimer’s patient from a near comatose state of existence to a lively mind recalling their past, a phenomenon I saw in a recent documentary, why not include authentic art in our daily lives? Clark’s Crossing has been a humbling and meaningful starting place where we are affecting peoples’ lives. Almost everyday we think of more ideas to get the ball rolling. We are eager to get other people on board with us.
We hope to complete the work before we break for the holidays, December 12. But there is a chance that the work will take longer—it’s a big space (16 X 31 feet) and there is a lot of detail still to be added. I have a number of projects stacked up now that will keep me busy well into spring.