14 August 2016 - A little while back I mentioned working with schools and community to brighten up the Western Heights Shopping Centre. There’s a little more to this story, sparked by a chance encounter.
Working with Kea Street Specialist School was nothing short of an absolute joy. In the planning stages, the most amazing designs appeared all around the classroom. Principal Sherie heard I played the guitar (albeit badly) and towards the end of drawing session she forced one into my hands. A few minutes later and we’re all singing ‘Proud Mary.’ Right there, right off the bat. Just one of life’s unforgettable moments.
After their designs were transferred to the shopping centre wall we had a magnificent day out there painting. Birds chirping, people stopping to chat, lunch under the trees - it was a hugely special time.
At the end of the day, after the kids had gone back to school, I was packing up the paints and brushes when a gentleman rolled up in a wheelchair and studied the new mural - silently from a distance. After a while he spoke.
“You know” he said, “about 15 years ago an artist was working with Mt. Maunganui Intermediate kids on some murals for the school. Made a huge impression on my granddaughter actually.’
I spun around and knew instantly… ‘Billie-Jo, right?’
After all those years I remember it like yesterday. Some kids may not be academic, or sporting, or natural leaders – but everyone has something, and Billie-Jo discovered she could paint. An incredibly shy girl, I put her into the extension group and she excelled. A few days later it was Billie-Jo on the front page of the Bay of Plenty Times, standing in front of our mural, positively beaming with confidence and pride. She was a star.
I’ve seen the lights go on in kids in classrooms for years – but Billie Jo was particularly memorable. Her grandfather tells me she’s doing really well, and I’m so delighted.
And gosh, I’m suddenly thinking, those kids will all be in their mid-twenties now!
Meantime, our mural still sits at the school entrance looking great. It continues to brighten this space and I’m forever aware that it certainly enriched at least two lives.