Van Go "Life Changes" mural continues to have impact at Bert Nash Center

Lawrence Chapman was one of the Van Go student artists who worked on the mural at Bert Nash.

Lawrence Chapman was one of the Van Go student artists who worked on the mural at Bert Nash. by Jeff Burkhead

It took all of eight weeks to complete the design and painting of the mural on the second floor of the Bert Nash Center.

That was 14 years ago. But the impact the mural has on children and families who visit the second floor of the Center lives on.

“It’s great to hear it’s still having an impact,” said Lawrence Chapman, who was one of the student artists who worked on the project. “It was definitely an experience I’ll never forget.”

The mural was painted in 2002, three years after the Bert Nash Center moved into the Community Health Facility at 200 Maine St., which was dedicated in 1999.

“That was the most labor-intensive project we’ve had,” said Lynne Green, who has been executive director of Van Go since its inception in 1997. “Never before and probably never after will we do anything that ambitious.”

Green said the Bert Nash staff was understanding and flexible throughout the painting process of the mural.

“Sandra Shaw (former Bert Nash CEO) was on my board at Van Go; she was very supportive. She laid the groundwork for the mural,” Green said. “It was a wonderful partnership. We literally took over the space. Bert Nash was wonderful to work with. They were so supportive.”

Bert Nash Child and Family Services Director Janice Storey said the mural is very meaningful to the staff as well as visitors to the Center.

“The team from Van Go worked on capturing the essence of the Bert Nash mission and made it into an amazing piece of art, and it continues to capture the same spirit today,” Storey said. “Families and children enjoy the beautiful artwork on a daily basis. It’s a frequent sight to see one of the children go up to the mural, touch it and ask about it.”

The mural depicts the four seasons as a way to represent the journey and seasons of life. The four elements: earth, wind, fire and water are woven through the mural’s panels. Lance LeClair, another one of the student artists who helped with the Bert Nash mural, worked on the autumn section.

“This definitely was my start; it’s where I learned to paint,” said LeClair, who has gone on to paint six more murals. “I definitely learned how to paint from working at Van Go.”

Van Go is a social service agency with a focus on art. The organization, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2017, provides year-round, after-school and summer job-training opportunities for at-risk youth. Chapman was one of those troubled youth. He said his experience with Van Go changed his life.

“Those are the kids that we love here, and Bert Nash is one of our biggest referral agencies. When he (Chapman) talks about Van Go being the thing that turned his life around, do you what that means to us? It just makes all of the struggles worth it. I’m so proud of all of them,” Green said. “The kids formed such a close bond on this project. They really jelled as a group. And they did it all in eight weeks. Wow.”

Chapman is proud to be one of the 18 student artists who worked on the Bert Nash mural, titled “Life Changes.” The students came up with the theme and the design for the mural and they did all of the work. Chapman was 17 at the time. He recently visited Bert Nash, along with his girlfriend and infant son, to check on the condition of the mural.

“I was happy to see the mural was still here,” Chapman said. “And it looks great.”

For Van Go staff and the student artists who worked on the project, it’s encouraging to hear how the mural continues to have an impact on people who visit the second floor of Bert Nash Center, where the Child and Family Services offices are located.

“It welcomes everyone who comes into the space; it has a great welcoming feel,” said Kristen Malloy, who is Van Go’s director of programs. “It’s really cool that this mural highlights the long-standing partnership we have with Bert Nash over the years. We work really closely. It’s great that this mural is here as a daily reminder of that partnership.”

Lance LeClair helped to paint the autumn section of the “Life Changes” mural.

Lance LeClair helped to paint the autumn section of the “Life Changes” mural. by Jeff Burkhead

Van Go Executive Director Lynne Green said the Bert Nash mural was “a wonderful parternship.”

Van Go Executive Director Lynne Green said the Bert Nash mural was “a wonderful parternship.” by Jeff Burkhead

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