Saratoga Center for the Family is an agency that serves children who are victims of domestic violence, neglect, and other forms of abuse. On May 5, 2013, the Family Center was engulfed by a fire that destroyed the basement which houses its Child Advocacy Center- which provides counseling and medical services, among other forms of support, to children who have experienced abuse. After the entire staff temporarily relocated to the Nolan House, a Presbyterian Church on Circular Street, they came back to their original location in September 2013 with the help of funds raised by local restaurants. Although the walls were repainted with bright colors, they were blank.
The walls stayed that way until they caught the attention of Rene Alpert ’15, who visited the Family Center for the first time in January 2014. She knew that a mural created by Skidmore students had existed in the Child Advocacy Center before the fire and was eager to put up another one just as beautiful in its place. Alpert took the initiative to reach out to Skidmore Pro Arts, an on-campus club dedicated to the fine arts.
In January, Alpert contacted Lily Reinhold ’15—a studio art major and member of the Skidmore Pro Arts club–asking for her assistance in planning out ideas for the mural. With the help of other Skidmore artists, they started to blueprint the images during club meetings while keeping in mind the suggestions of a cityscape theme from the kids at the Child Advocacy Center.
“We wanted to create an image that was calming and comforting for children when they came in, one that reflected a community and all the possible interests that a child might have,” Reinhold said.
Pro Arts members Camilla Busby ’15, astudio art major and creative writing minor, and Elizabeth Stone ’15,a studio art major, art history and religion double minor, sketched the scenes on the walls. The next day, Reinhold and a dozen other Skidmore Pro Arts club members completed the mural.
Painted with hues that conjure up the nostalgia of classic carnival games, the mural stands warm and welcoming in the Child Advocacy Center waiting room. In the mural, a pink and white striped sweet shop cheerfully resides next to a bookstore, over which a painted parchment sign is inscribed as “The Book of Wonders.” A smiling unicorn stands beside the bookstore entrance, the floor of which is plaid pink and leads into the book sanctuary . Next door, a grinning green dinosaur serves a swirl of ice cream to a tiny clown out of a mint green ice cream stand spotted with plum purple. Adjacent is the pet shop, where another dinosaur, a bunny, a dog, a cat, a bird, and a fish await their next owners. A bright yellow flower shop looks over a beautiful pasture of hilly green, where butterflies roam and sunflowers grow tall. Finally, rows of brand new toys can be seen through the window of a bright blue toy store.
Child Advocacy Center Coordinator Jennifer Wormley was very pleased with the students’ efforts. “The mural is what brings everything together. We bring the kids over to the mural and it instantly makes them feel comfortable,” Wormley said.
The walls at the Child Advocacy Center are soon to be filled with more Skidmore art. Busby and Stone expressed excitement about a new mural they are planning to put up this spring semester.