THERE IS NO GREATER GIFT THAN THE CAPACITY TO GIVE AND CHANGE PEOPLE'S LIVES.
CIEL ARTISTS CREATE A SMALL OASIS FOR KIDS
Our hope is that the love and happy energy that we poured into the painting of the mural is held in that room so that as each child waits, they feel comforted and safe.
Patti Bryan volunteers at Pat's Place. (This is a place that works as an advocate for children who must go through the court system. They walk with the child from the time that police are called, to the hospital, to court and everything in between. They have each child's back.) Patti asked me if I was interested in helping paint a mural at the courthouse in the children's witness waiting room. She said it was a small room with no windows where children wait to testify against the people who had hurt them. They were thinking maybe paint a window or something like that. Of course, my heart goes out to any child that has been harmed in any way, but these kids have experienced terrible things...so I eagerly said "yes!" and offered to see if other artists at Ciel would be interested. Flavia eagerly volunteered too.
The three of us met Anne Pfeiffer from Pat's Place, and Kelly Stetzer with the DA's office, up at the Charlotte courthouse to see where we would be painting. We sat there in this small room with a TV hung high on the wall, a small sofa and a chair, looking around. Three walls were white and one blue. The only thing even hinting that this was a room dedicated to children was a small table with two bright green stools. It had two Barbies, a couple of tins of Play Dough, and some Duplos sitting on it. Children wait in this room for hours, sometimes even days, to testify. How frightening it must be for them to wait...with nothing to occupy their imaginations.
Well, Flavia, Patti and I began to brainstorm right then and there. We decided to paint a mural that encompassed the entire room. We even thought of incorporating the wood around the door into a tree. We needed the mural to be interesting to all children, from toddlers to teens, so we decided it would be a stylized landscape. We proposed to also incorporate texture with some of Flavia's recycled paper circles and plastic bottle flowers, but that part was not approved.
Several artists from Ciel participated in painting the mural: myself (-Laura McRae Hitchcock, Flavia Lovatelli, Cindi Spillman, Tina Alberni, and Claudia Soria. Many artists from Ciel have contributed to the wish list of items to be placed in the waiting room to give the children something to occupy their minds while they wait. In fact, we have all become so involved with this project, we decided that the gallery would sponsor the waiting room and continue to champion these brave children.
The first day we painted the Assistant DA, Bill Stetzer and Kelly Stetezer, also with the DA's office, met us. As we made our way up to the 5th floor, he said something that stuck with me. He said, " This entire building is dedicated to criminals, except for the room you will be working in. It is reserved for our most innocent citizens: the children." As we worked that day, people from all over the courthouse came to see what we were doing. They began telling us about the trial that inspired this renovation. Little Elijah, not quite 2 years old, was killed by his stepfather...beaten to death over a period of 18 hours because he didn't want to eat his peas (or something on his plate). His older sister was to testify against the stepfather, and had to wait in this empty room for several days, all day long. They asked if we could somehow, discreetly, dedicate the room to him. And so we painted his name, encircled by a heart, in the tree, as if it were carved there. As police officers, attorneys, office personnel, and others came in to see the mural in progress, many were brought to tears. Clearly, this trial impacted the entire population at the courthouse. It was then that we realized just how important the mural is to not only the children, but also to the people who are trying to protect them as well.
Our goal is to continue to support the Children's Witness Waiting Room, a tiny oasis where, hopefully, children's minds can be occupied with something other than what they are facing as they wait, and to continue to raise awareness about Pat's Place and all that they do for those children.
By Laura McRae-Hitchcock
We are collecting donations on the following wish list items which you can drop-off at Ciel Gallery or at Pat's Place Child Advocacy Center, 901 East Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28203.
Puzzles (both for younger children and teenagers)
Coloring books (English and Spanish)
Crayons (both large and small, for little hands and bigger hands)
Playing cards or card games
Board games (both for younger children and teenagers)
Pat's Place For Child Advocacy Center
Have a question? Email us firstname.lastname@example.org