Many Hands Helped Create Mural at Valiant Living By Mary Gales Askren

Photo 1: Michael Clarke and David Kessler, Photo 2: Brenda Johnson and Donna Uthe, Photo 3: Amanda Trimble and Sandra Lee

One by one, staff and those supported placed their hands on the mural in the Valiant Living lunchroom on Friday morning. They were completing a project begun by Amy Woolston several months earlier.


“I see the trunk of the tree as Valiant Living and the leaves as the staff and people supported,” Executive Director Donna Uthe said as she watched the orderly process.

“We’re all in this together. We’re all coming together as one,” she added.


Woolston, who works in human resources at Valiant Living, is also a practicing artist and former art teacher. As she looked at the bare cafeteria walls, she found herself recalling murals she has done with students over the years – often with a visiting artist.

“One of the visiting artists did a set of wings,” Woolston recalled. Each student contributed by making a feather and then each stood in front of the completed project to be photographed.

As she recalled these projects, she began to imagine a mural on one of the lunchroom walls which was equally inclusive. She pitched the idea to Uthe, who welcomed the idea.

“When Amy brought it up to me, I thought it was fantastic,” Uthe said.


The mural was painted when Woolston was not on the clock. She would stay after hours to paint a landscape which stretches the length of one wall and has as its central feature a large tree. She used abandoned house paint that she picked up at Ace Hardware.

“When you have a big project, house paint is just as good,” Woolston said, adding that doing the mural has been fun for her.


Last week, work continued when staff and those who are supported by the nonprofit added hand-prints to the mural.


Board members will also add their hand-prints before it is finished.


For Woolston, the project is a metaphor as well as something for people to enjoy while they eat lunch.

“The main metaphor is our community within the larger community,” she said. “We’re all unique, but we all have something to contribute.”

Those who have been served by Valiant Living but are now deceased are represented by golden hand-prints at the base of the tree like fallen leaves.


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