They say it takes a village to raise a child; in this context, one could also say it takes a community to paint a mural. Originally the brainchild of Mission Year intern, Mary Kate Huffman from Boone, North Carolina, the vibrant and multi-textured scheme slowly developing on the rear wall of the Gano Center gym wall bears colorful testimony to the many hands that have contributed to its formation.
“I wanted this piece to honor the kids in the community here [in our Northside neighborhood],” 19-year old Huffman shared, “and to help them feel like they actually have the power to think critically, dream big, and work out their potential together.” Huffman has spent the past 11 months volunteering with Mission Centers of Houston via her participation in a year-long urban service program called Mission Year that seeks to place groups of young adults in intentional community in under-resourced neighborhoods across the US so they can flesh out the Biblical mandate to “love your neighbor as yourself,” as well as to explore issues of simplicity, cultural differences, racial reconciliation, and more. While the majority of her time partnering with Mission Centers of Houston this year has been spent focusing on food distribution, senior citizen ministry, and after-school programming at Gano Center, the mural is a reflection of Huffman’s ongoing relational investment in the Near Northside community as well as an excellent outlet for her interest in the arts.
Huffman received much of her inspiration for the mural’s design from a photograph she captured of a young neighbor girl who was sitting on the ground with her eyes closed and her hands folded. “She looked like she was either dreaming or praying,” said Huffman, who then sketched out the entire design by hand before projecting the larger portions — namely the face and the multi-hued green bird — on to the wall and beginning the actual painting process with a good deal of skilled freehanding and on-site improvisation.
Some of the other hands that have contributed to the mural’s progress throughout the month of July include many of the youth and pre-teens who regularly attend Gano’s after-school programming, various youth from the weekly summer volunteer groups, several co-workers, and even a local Houstonian artist. One of this week’s summer volunteers, 12-year old Lauren from Missouri City, mentioned that this was her first time coming to Mission Centers of Houston. “It’s awesome!” she exclaimed enthusiastically, paint brush in hand. “It feels really good to be able to help the community here and to show Christ’s love to the kids, even though we might not know all of their back story.” Lauren then went on to mention that while she has some experience in school experimenting with different shades and patterns of colors for a backdrop, this was her first time working on a mural. “I can’t wait to come back next year!” she finished.
All are welcome to come investigate the Gano Center mural in person themselves — as well as to chalk out a personal prayer for the community on the bottom strip of black chalkboard paint serving as an interactive border along the entire piece.
“In my dreams, I dream of a God of justice, love, beauty and hope.
He tells me not to worry, that His love pushes out fear.
He cares for the birds of the air and gives us what we need.
He says, I am the Creator;
I am making all things new – even you.”
Prayer adorning the mural