As visitors of Daybreak Adult Day Services passed through a long hallway near the activities room, several stopped and admired the landscape being painted on the wall.
“Oh, this is so beautiful. Can I help?” one visitor asked.
Mira Nair, an 18-year-old senior at Middletown High School, greeted her with a smile and a paintbrush.
“Absolutely. What do you want to paint?” Nair responded.
When the visitor pointed to a small, unpainted dog, Nair handed her some brown paint and they got to work.
Nair is working on a multi-day project this week at the daytime care facility for senior citizens, painting a 5-foot-tall, 22-foot-long mural, in order to gain her Girl Scout Gold Award, which is the highest service award in Girl Scouts — given to those who identify and take action on a community issue that they are passionate about.
Nair recruited volunteers from school, her troop, and the community to assist with the painting. Participants from Daybreak also signed up to volunteer, and even more trickled through Wednesday afternoon to participate as they saw the project.
Nair has taken art lessons for 12 years, and art has always been part of her life. Her grandfather was an artist, and her dad “dabbled in drawing,” she said.
So she knew she wanted to ground her project in some form of art, but exactly where and what she would paint was a bit of a challenge.
“I’ve always loved working with the elderly, so I thought that would be a great thing to do,” Nair said. “So I started looking at different [elder care facilities] online, and Daybreak seemed like the perfect place.”
Nair was originally inspired by the work of Alex Cook, an artist who has gained nationwide recognition for his murals that celebrate the theme “you are loved.”
Nair knew she wanted a specific message in her work much like Cook, but she didn’t want to do the same message because that one is specific to Cook.
“I wanted to do something that was mine, and not take his work for my own,” Nair said.
So Nair visited the center and hosted a paint night with some of the participants, teaching them how to paint snowmen using simple techniques. She spoke to several of the seniors and asked what they would like to see inside the facility.
The participants, who are not identified in this story because of medical privacy concerns, agreed that a mural depicting children and young adults and how they help seniors grow would be a pleasing message to see.
Nair loves to use bright colors, and she incorporated them to show the theme of growth through changing seasons. A mountainside landscape showed winter turning into spring, then summer, then fall, with cool colors gradually getting warmer and then cool again.
They drew the outline for the mural Tuesday, and began painting Wednesday. Nair met a woman from Ghana, learned about her child, and saw pictures of the woman’s family growing up in Africa.
One man, whose main job was painting the open green fields depicted in the mural, brought pictures of some of the painting work he used to do.
“Oh, so that’s why you paint so fast,” Nair said. “You got all that practice painting these.”
Nair said she liked the placement of the mural because it’s directly next to the arts and crafts area, and the bright colors will cover up a large, light pink wall.
“I think Daybreak is such a fun place and the residents love it here, but the pink walls can give it kind of an institutional feel,” Nair said. “It’s not that way, and I think this mural will really brighten up the room. And the residents are really excited about it.”
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