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Mural painted by CCU art class brings ‘faith, hope and charity'

by Pippo

Coastal Carolina University students enrolled in ARTS 499 are transforming the once dull, white cinderblock walls of Churches Assisting People (CAP) in Conway into a mural that is now bursting with color. The vibrant mural spans three walls on the inside of CAP, a community aid organization, and depicts three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity.

The Maymester mural-painting class is taught every summer by visual arts professor Brian “Cat” Taylor. Before the class can begin painting, Taylor first must find a place for the mural. He says many businesses in the surrounding area call CCU’s art department and ask for the Maymester course to paint a mural for them. This year was different; Taylor was asked by a fellow professor at CCU to paint one at CAP.

Sara Brallier, professor of sociology, has been volunteering at CAP for two years and recognized a need for a positive change there. CAP is an organization that collects money and food donations from local churches in order to assist those in need.

“For a lot of the folks who come in here, things are not great for them, and most of the places they go are not very nice,” said Brallier. “And there is a lot of research that suggests your environment can affect your outlook and mood. [People who come to CAP] are in a bad place in their lives, and they have to come and ask for help in an unpleasant environment. What we wanted to do was to make it a really pleasant, welcoming environment.”

When Brallier asked Taylor last year if his class would paint the mural at CAP, he was concerned. He knew that a mural for the space in CAP would cost about $5,000, and a charitable organization probably couldn’t afford to pay the University for the paint and supplies.

So, Brallier and Taylor decided to write a grant together through CCU’s internal grant program in order to fund the project, and received enough funds to proceed with the mural.

Planning and designing this three-wall mural took a lot of thought by Taylor. “When you do a public art, you have to do something that works with the space,” said Taylor.

The three virtues are represented by one woman painted on each wall. The women are of different ethnicities to suggest the diversity of Conway residents, and the background of each mural is a landmark in Conway.

Each woman holds a staff with a symbol on it that represents faith, hope or charity. Faith is depicted by a woman holding a cross with a local church in the background of the image. Next, hope is represented by an anchor on a staff with the Conway Riverwalk in the background. The final virtue, charity, is symbolized by woman holding a staff with a heart inside of a hand, which is a symbol for giving and love between people. The woman is painted in front of Main Street, which is the heart of the city.

Taylor began designing the mural three months in advance, photographing the models and the locations, and sizing the images in relation to the walls. Taylor selected the models for the project with his goal of representing diversity in mind. He chose women of different skin tones to be portrayed on each wall of the mural. The model for the faith mural was Nikko Austen Smith, a 2018 CCU graduate who majored in acting. Amanda Kurfehs, one of the students painting the mural in ARTS 499, was the model for the charity wall. In the image, she is holding Skyela Dean, the 5-year-old daughter of Scott Dean, a CCU photographer. Katherine Lall, a 2015 CCU graduate, was the model for the hope mural.

Once the design is set, Taylor needs to order the right amount of supplies, then present the concept to the organization that will be receiving the mural.

Taylor evaluates his students’ strengths and then determines what part of the mural they work on. According to Angelica D’Antonio, a senior art studio major from Little River, each student has his/her own assigned spot on the mural to paint. “I am working on two portraits, but I had to create a portfolio to audition for the opportunity to work on those portraits and then was chosen by the professor,” said D’Antonio.

D’Antonio says that she enrolled in ARTS 499 for the experience of painting for an audience. “Honestly, this class is not easy. My classmates and I put in roughly eight hours a day for four weeks and it’s exhausting, but the end results will be way worth it,” she says.

The team of nine students who are painting the CAP mural also include Amanda Kurfehs, a senior art studio major; Ashley Tenney, a junior art studio major; Hannah Davis, a senior art studio major; Juliet Keller-Dabner, a sophomore psychology major; McKenzie Hare, a senior graphic design major; Steven Parker, a junior graphic design major; Adrian Smith, a senior graphic design major; and Andrew Daugherty, a senior graphic design major.

“I’ve got a great crew this year,” said Taylor. “They want to be here on their off-time and work. Normally, with a much simpler mural, it can be done during class time. But these kids come in every night.” The class meets at CAP to paint from 9 a.m. to noon. Taylor and the students then return to the location to work from 5 p.m. until around 10 or 10:30 at night.

“It has been a battle since day one to have a fully functional class inside a fully functional business,” said D’Antonio. “It’s tight on space, and everyone is quick to irritate, but that is only for the first three hours of the class. We go back almost every night from 5 to 10 p.m. when we have the building to ourselves, and that is much easier.” 

D’Antonio says she is proud of what she has accomplished in the course so far and looks forward to seeing the end result.

People at CAP were happy to watch the painting in progress. “I think it makes them feel appreciated that Coastal is willing to have students come out and do this for them,” said Brallier. “The first day they put paint on the wall, a woman came in and she was deaf. She looks at me, and her eyes tear up and she said, ‘It’s so beautiful.’”

“This particular place is not a place you go when you’re doing well-off,” said Taylor. “Before, it was white, cinderblock walls. There was nothing that made people smile when they walked through the door. My hope now is even if you have to be here, it could brighten your day just a little bit.”

Several of the murals that ARTS 499 students have painted are on CCU’s campus. Recently, the class has branched out to do murals at more locations in the community, including on a Masonic lodge. “We want to create a closer tie with not just Conway, but the whole Grand Strand community,” said Taylor.

The mural will be completed in June and is located at CAP, 307 Wright Blvd., Conway.

Visit the CCU Chanticleers on YouTube to see a video of the mural Cat Taylor’s Public Art class painted last year at the Grand Strand Masonic Lodge in North Myrtle Beach.

Video: COASTAL NOW - Public Art: The Masonic Lodge Murals

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