12/26/13 — Students help with LaGrange mural job

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Students help with LaGrange mural job

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 26, 2013 1:46 PM

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From left, Bria McCoy, Summer Woodard and Michaela Deguzman, classmates in Angie Waller's drawing class at Wayne Community College, volunteered for a months-long project to restore murals at Bear Creek facility in La Grange. The murals were painted decades ago by artist Chick Wooten, a LaGrange native who died in 2011.

A project to restore a local artist's work turned into a labor of love for three area high school students.

Angie Waller, art instructor at Wayne Community College, said she was contacted by Howell Woods, formerly Howell's Child Care Center, about an opportunity for some of her students to spruce up several murals done decades ago by renowned artist Chick Wooten.

Wooten, who died in 2011 at age 81, grew up on a LaGrange farm and returned to the area in the 1970s. He was best known for his paintings of life in the Carolina countryside, but also produced murals inside all the RHA Howell's care centers for the developmentally delayed, as well as the hallway of LaGrange Elementary School.

"I thought it was a wonderful project and a great way for the college to give back to the community, in addition to showcasing some of the talent that we have in my class and in the fine arts program," Ms. Waller said. "This was a project that would be near my heart, for I have an aunt that has special needs."

When she put out the word for her Drawing I class in the fall, she immediately had three volunteers -- Michaela Deguzman, Bria McCoy and Summer Woodard.

"None of them had any painting experience and certainly none of them had tackled a project of this magnitude," Ms. Waller said. "They loved the idea of giving back, and each of the girls had to complete a project for their respective high schools. Each of these girls are part of an early college program that allows them to take college level courses such as mine. So it was a win-win situation for all."

Miss McCoy is a student at Wayne School of Engineering, while Miss Deguzman and Miss Woodard attend Wayne Early/Middle College High School.

Ms. Waller recalled the initial visit made with her students to the Bear Creek facility in La Grange.

"We were amazed at the sheer size of the murals," she said. "They extended all throughout the facility and each mural had some sort of repair that was required. At least four huge murals are in the facility.

"We all thought it was very important that we become the stewards to the murals, repair and keep the original vision of the artist. Due to recent renovations, there was a removal of a water fountain and that by far was our biggest area that we had to complete from scratch. I went that day and helped with the mixing of the paint to match the colors and mainly for the general support."

The students worked diligently on the project, their teacher said, often meeting on Saturdays for three or four hours at a time. But it all turned out well, Ms. Waller said.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of these young visionary women," she said. "They truly do represent the very best of Wayne Community and how the creative mind can be so impactful to the patients that reside at Howell Woods."

Miss Deguzman said she was glad she got to work on the project.

"I haven't painted a lot, so this gave me a chance to expand my artistic skills," she said. "Artistically, I learned so much about layering different colors and mixing them to match the particular part of the mural.

"I'm happy I also got to give back to the community. It was nice as the staff and residents watched us and told us we were doing a great job. The mural Chick Wooten painted is beautiful, and I'm lucky to have had a chance to restore it, so people will be able to continue enjoying it."

Miss Woodard agreed that it was a rewarding endeavor.

"I loved being able to give back to the community by painting at Howell's," the senior said. "It is pleasing to me to know that the work that we did will be forever enjoyed.

"I love to paint. Therefore, I'm glad that I was able to give back in a way that I love."