Equipped with ladders, brushes and Styrofoam cups filled with bold colored paint, a dozen youth from Montgomery County’s juvenile justice system turned a massive blank canvas into a foot-traffic-stopping mural inside the Dayton Mall.
Located near Dick’s Sporting Goods, the canvas stands 12 feet tall and stretches 42 feet long and is filled with vibrant colors and images of diverse community members. The words “inquisitive,” “inspire,” “innovative,” “impactful” and “inclusive” boldly appear on the mural with the goal to bring community togetherness to patrons walking past.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for July 30 at 11 a.m. After the event, the artwork will be on permanent display for everyone to view.
“Through my work over the years, I’ve noticed that I’m sending a message,” said Shirley Tucker, who earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Wright State and is currently the head facilitator of the Montgomery County Juvenile Court Probation Services art program.
Called Helping Adolescents Achieve Long-Term Objectives, or HAALO, the art program is a collaboration between the juvenile court and the K12 Gallery & TEJAS, an artist-centered regional visual arts center offering innovative programs for all ages.
“It’s given our kids that pride,” Tucker said. “They’re doing something positive and giving back to the community.”
The program has produced 20 colorful murals on the sides of buildings and at community and other centers around Dayton. The young people’s creative work can be seen at the “Land of Funk” mural near The Neon movie theatre in downtown Dayton and the Victory Project building on Troy Street.
Tucker, who specializes in graphic design, acrylic oil paintings and murals, designed and stenciled the mall mural before painting began with help from other artists.
“Being in probation, it was a win-win because not only am I taking kids out in the community and working with them, but it’s given me a chance to live out my passion as an artist,” said Tucker.
Her design includes a Wright State University logo that Tucker wanted to incorporate because of her experience as a Raider. “Wright State made me feel complete and that’s why I wanted to incorporate Wright State on the wall,” she said.
“At Dayton Mall, we’re always looking for new ways to bring movement, art and culture to our town center for our guests to experience,” said Dave Dubber, general manager of Dayton Mall. “With such vibrant local talent here in Dayton, the Canvas Project is an opportunity to spotlight our area artists, while creating a unique experience that will surely leave our guests feeling inspired.”
“After such a tough year for the entire world, I wanted a mural that would not just be beautiful but also inspire hope – and happy thoughts,” said Karen Kelly Brown, marketing director for the Dayton Mall. “I also wanted this to be a win-win in terms of helping others – so the relationship with Shirley and HAALO is perfect – and now so important.”