A year and a half ago, I received the incredible commission to paint a mural of Saint Francis of Assisi on the old front exterior door of Luther Place. Although I majored in studio art in college, I had never painted anything that large or that public before! I was terrified of the opportunity, but forged ahead, spending lots of time praying to St. Francis and talking to animals in hopes of receiving some sort of special guidance. The result was a success. On October 3, 2009, the mural was mounted, bringing an element of vibrance and whimsy to the age and strength of our building.
Over the last year and a half, I’ve heard many comments and stories in relation to the mural. One of my favorites came from Pastor Bob Holum, a former pastor of Luther Place. He shared his past frustrations with how to handle those abandoned doorways. They seemed to be an invitation to drug dealers, the homeless, prostitutes, or other questionable activity. And while it may seem like the answer to this “problem” is to put up gates and push people away, Pastor Bob’s response was one of radical hospitality. “Those spaces need to be beautified,” Pastor Bob stressed. If our doorway is serving as a sanctuary for a homeless person, let’s make it a home they can be proud of.
Luther Place has three abandoned doorways. It didn’t take me long to realize what Pastor Karen was thinking… Three doorways? Three murals! Uh oh. If I wasn’t a mural-painter before, I suppose I’m becoming one now!! The original plan was to have the second mural – Martin Luther King, Jr. – finished by April 4, which happened to be both his commemoration day and Easter of this past year. Plans were well under way, sketches were drawn, the panels were cut and primed. In March, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Though my plans to complete the mural had to change, the Holy Spirit was certainly at work through it! The MLK mural was a main topic of conversation with my dad and me while he was in the hospital. In fact, while he was in ICU, at 4am, we got so excited about the mural that dad had me read the entire “I Have a Dream” speech aloud.
My life has been a bit of a whirlwind in the last 9 months, but the second mural is finally finished. Its completion marks much more than just an artistic achievement for me. It marks my father’s recovery. It marks one more beautified outdoor space of our Sacred Commons. And most importantly, it is a public witness and constant reminder that we have work to do, and together, we will continue to march ahead.