BY BREANNA COLLINS, ENERGIZING ENTREPRENEURIAL COMMUNITIES VISTA, THE HUB
Three 17-year-olds took on a challenging and life changing project in Grafton. Hunter Neel and Ashley Glover, Grafton High School seniors this year, and Will Debiase, a graduate of the Mountaineer Challenge Academy, got on board to paint a mural at Grafton’s downtown community deck, Toad Hall, on the side of Espresso Yourself Coffee House.
Little did they know the impact the project would have on them as well (as the amount of work this mural would take!).
Hunter, Ashley, and Will arrived at the coffee shop on a Wednesday afternoon in early August ready to create public art. Once the idea of what the image would be was determined, they quickly got started.
We’ll follow their journey…
After a day and a half of getting the idea onto the wall, everyone was ready to paint!
They began painting on Thursday afternoon – they were excited to begin creating the art for the community to enjoy.
Every section of the wall is a different color, so they needed to spend time mixing seven different shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple for each section as they proceeded.
Each day Hunter, Ashley, and Will arrived between 8-9am and went on to work until late in the evenings – nearly 12 hours on some days.
The definition of dedicated and determined, they even painted in the rain on two separate occasions to keep the project moving forward.
Each day, they made more progress than the day before, adding more color and beauty to this downtown gathering space. They even worked on Saturday and Sunday in hopes of getting the artwork completed.
When they finally began working on the purple section they knew they were almost there!
And by early evening in mid-August, they had finally completed their masterpiece. The project took 6 days of work – including the last few days of their summer break – and 116 volunteer hours combined to complete.
These three teenagers all come from different backgrounds and have different stories to tell. We knew Hunter was an artist from his long visits at the coffee shop with friends. So when the idea struck us to have a local, young artist create a mural, he was definitely on the list! We told Hunter we trusted his judgment and suggested he recruit help. Ashley, Hunters friend from school, had recently moved back to Grafton from Florida and was his first choice. Will is Ashley’s boyfriend, who unknowingly got roped into the project! Ashley was a young artist who had lost touch with her passion, but felt that the mural project was intended to bring her back to her art. Will was unaware of his artistic abilities until the project. He could be found at times creating art on pieces of cardboard – and also himself.
When the teens were asked what it meant to them to be able to participate and complete this project this were their responses:
- Hunter Neel: “I feel accomplished in the completion of the project, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to create a space for community members young and old to enjoy. I feel that this is a good starting point for the direction that Grafton needs to go.”
- Ashley Glover: “It was tough to wake up early and work everyday, but I feel that this project has made a positive impact on my life and has helped me to rejoin back into the community after being gone for a while.”
- Will Debiase: “There is more to do in Grafton than what there seems to be when you choose to get involved in the growth of the community.”
It was my honor and pleasure to work with these teens and get to know each of them a little better. They are each amazing young people who have taken ownership of their community, and now have a desire to get involved in other projects. They are excited to create more art for the community in the future.
This mural project was made possible by Create Your State, Sherwin Williams, and Donna and Tom Hart of Espresso Yourself Coffee House.