I’m making a 8′ x 12′ mural at the Grant Grover School, a branch of the College of Marin, for young people with special needs, through the Youth in Arts program of Marin County. When I say I don’t know what odds are, what I mean is that many odds pale when I spend time with someone who cannot walk or talk, but who can look me in the eye and cause me to question all I take for granted. As Lili Lopez, my 18 year-old Unity Through Creativity assistant, says “They know something we don’t know.” The students at Grant Grover have a great range of skill and consciousness, which makes any skill and consciousness seem like a precious thing. Every time I ask a student to use a chalk line, or take a video, or use a caulk gun, I never know what will happen. Most of my requests have been met with “yes” and follow through.
After surveying 30 students about their sparks, I made a sketch incorporating many of their passions. I chose the golden retriever as a symbol of unconditional love. One of the students has a dream of making a shelter for abused and neglected golden retrievers. He sees the odds that the dogs are up against and wants to do something about it. I xeroxed the drawing and asked the students to color it in, getting ideas for the color scheme.
I’m comfortable around these young people because I can relate to the level of affection they thrive on. It reminds me of Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert’s description of herself as a cross between a golden retriever and a barnacle. I told that to Kyle, the prince of warmth at the school – the golden retriever guy. We had a belly laugh about how that’s how much we need love, too.
Below you’ll see pictures of the mural in progress. The will and fortitude of these young people, their teachers and their families is inspiring.
Study for “We Must Care for the Earth”
Preparing the support structure.
Coloring the studies to get ideas for our color scheme.
Walter helped to make the master grid for the three panels so we could transfer the drawing.