Painting for community

Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Alberta Correspondent

In an ironic coincidence, ugly graffiti was sprayed on the outside wall of Edmonton First Mennonite Church the same day that teenagers from a local junior-high school painted a beautiful mural on walls inside the church late last year.

“We got to paint on a wall!” exclaimed an enthusiastic student from Kelsey Nowaczynski’s Grade 8/9 art class from Dan Knott Jr. High School. The students painted a mountain scene on the walls around a small climbing area in the therapy room of Southview Child Care. Southview is a public daycare centre that is owned and operated by First Mennonite, and which integrates children with special needs into its community.

Nowaczynski’s pre-school-aged son attends Southview while she teaches art classes at Dan Knott. The search for the right care for Nowaczynski’s son was challenging. After a difficult year, they found a good fit at Southview. “It’s an amazing daycare,” she said. “We’ve been through three day homes and some daycares [before Southview]. He is so happy to be here.”

As part of her teaching, Nowaczynski looks outside the school walls for opportunities for her students to use art to enhance lives. “I like getting the kids out into the community and giving them the opportunity to give back,” she said.

This particular art field trip was extra special, not only because Nowaczynski’s son is currently a part of the daycare community, but because some of her art students have good memories of Southview.

The opportunity to partner Dan Knott School with First Mennonite Church and Southview Child Care brought three “alumni” home to their former daycare. Natalie Buhr, Kyra Drew and Ivy Ngo all attended Southview as toddlers and for Kindergarten. Natalie also regularly attends First Mennonite with her family.

The graffiti on the outside of the church building will soon be covered over and forgotten, the artist unknown and apart from the community. The mural on the inside walls, however, will be the stuff of good memories and ongoing benefit for years to come.

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