Tribune Print Share Text

Colorful murals bring joy to everyone

Charlestown artists lend their talents to create homelike environment

Created date

January 22nd, 2013

French artist Edgar Degas once said, Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. That was Don Griswold s rationale when he began painting a life-size mural on a set of elevator doors in the extended care neighborhood at Charlestown. I was trying to recreate some of the beautiful scenes I remember when we visited Tuscany, Italy, Don says of his mural depicting a tranquil scene of sailboats floating on aqua blue water.

Neighbors help neighbors

Don, a Wilmington, Del., native, took up painting as a hobby at 54 while working at DuPont. He now lives atCharlestown, the Erickson Living community in Catonsville, Md., and is the chairman of the Fireside Art Committee, a group of Charlestown artists who exhibit and sell their work in the community s Fireside Restaurant. Rose Sands, the volunteer coordinator at Charlestown, approached me and asked if I knew of any artists who would be interested in painting murals at [the extended care neighborhood], says Don. Without hesitation, Don presented the idea and garnered support from five fellow artists willing to join him in lending their talents. We all like to express ourselves in one way or another, says Don. They were really enthused at the idea of this art form and outlet. Everyone needs to be challenged, and this was a great opportunity to try something new and to bring joy to others. The artists were each given the liberty to select the scene they wanted to paint. But unlike a typical artist s canvas, painting on a set of elevator doors presented both technical and logistical challenges. We prepped the doors with gritted sandpaper in order to disturb the smooth, shiny surface so it would accept the paint, says Don. We found that acrylic paint worked the best because it is the most user-friendly, it doesn t take as long to dry, is easier to clean up, and unlike oil paints there s no harsh fumes with acrylics. The artists worked at their leisure, normally in the evening when there was less hustle and bustle. I tried to paint after dinnertime when there weren t as many people coming and going, says Don, but the elevators were still in use while we painted, which made it a little tricky. I would be in the middle of painting and all of a sudden the elevator doors would open up. But the visitors and staff were always complimentary about the murals, and that was really encouraging.

Up for a challenge

Artist Eva Archer says this was the first time she has ever worked on a painting of this scale, but she was eager to give it a try. Don is great, says Eva. He motivates people to do and try a lot of new things. When he asked if I was interested in painting a mural on elevator doors, I told him I had never done anything like that before, but it sounded challenging and fun. Eva started painting in the 1950s as part of a women s club and has enjoyed painting ever since. I m not a professionally trained artist; it s just something I enjoy as a hobby, says Eva. When I moved to Charlestown, I discovered they have a great art room where you can work and store your supplies. And there s also a great group of artists here who are always kind enough to give you guidance. When it came to her mural, Eva admits that at first she was a little intimidated at the sheer size of the area she had to work with. I wasn t quite sure how to approach it, says Eva. So I began looking through some of the books in the art room and found a picture of boats I really liked. I thought it would be something I could successfully paint. It turned out to be a little harder than I expected, but I managed to get through it. In all, six artists painted a total of seven murals over the course of a year, including a wall mural in the dining room. Sands says the response to the murals has been extremely positive. Both visitors and the staff love it! says Sands. It really brightens the whole area and creates a warm, relaxing environment. Don says he too is pleased with the outcome. It s a win-win because people enjoy the artwork, and as artists, anytime we can use our gifts to create something meaningful is worthwhile. The way I see it, if it brings joy to people, it was worth it.