Color Rendering of Proposed Mural

Color Rendering of Proposed Mural
by Chris Vincent

Thursday, September 30, 2010

THANK YOUs as big as the mural!

What a journey this has been!  Artist Chris Vincent Howard (Murals by Design, Waukesha) is nearing the end of the road that took her through one crazy hot summer of painting (and getting married!). THIS SATURDAY, Oct. 2, she will mark the end of the road with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the mural (Discount Liquor), followed by an evening of celebrating at Generations At 5 Points.

As hard as Chris has worked, she knows she would not have been able to complete the project without the help of some important charitable organizations.

Good Friend, Inc., has been the primary collaborator, joining Chris back in April through Diane McGeen's networking skills. We coordinated a group of friend pairs comprised of child representatives from all 17 elementary schools (from the 2009-’10 year) in the district to serve as junior artists. Together with participants from the Waukesha Community Art Project, another 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing after-school art programs for middle school students, the junior artist team painted leaves along the lower border of the mural August 7.

Before Good Friend was even on board, the Downtown Waukesha Business Improvement District contributed $2,500 toward the effort. In July, Good Friend secured a $1,000 grant from Arts Waukesha, a granting partner of the Wisconsin Arts Board. And last month, the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors’ philanthropic arm, the Youth Foundation, awarded a $2,000 grant to Good Friend for the project.

Other important contributors of resources include Benjamin Moore, the Waukesha County Historical Society, Judy Fuller, Diane McGeen, and Sue Baker. The Journal Sentinel and The Freeman have also been very generous with their coverage of this project.  Chris knows of many others who deserve special recognition -- just ask her at the ribbon cutting!  

If you donors and contributors could see how far my arms are stretched, you'd know that when I say we appreciate you "THIS MUCH", it's a whole lot of appreciation.  A really big THANK YOU!  Think mural big.

Chris is still accepting contributions for the $13,000 project, which was not fully funded. For more information, visit

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Now THAT's what I call inclusion!

In a word, the Junior Artist Paint event Good Friend coordinated was GLORIOUS!  Waukesha families came out in force yesterday afternoon to participate in a community event like no other.  Twenty-four elementary school students representing seventeen elementary schools were assisted by muralist Chris Vincent, Good Friend co-founder Denise Schamens, and four Waukesha Community Art Project participants as they painted enormous leaves along the lower border of the Waukesha Historical Mural.

Though there were a number of things that made the event so special, the most beautiful aspect was neither the art nor the sunshine but the friendships that were celebrated.  Students with a variety of physical, cognitive, and neuro-biological disabilities painted side-by-side with their typically-developing friends.  We provided support as needed without hindering their social interaction.  This symbolizes the definition of inclusion in education.

Many communities have schools specially designed and staffed exclusively for students with special education needs.  In such environments, students with disabilities have no access to their typically-developing peers.  While this might be a preferred and necessary educational setting for some children, the movement in the state of Wisconsin for its students with special needs is toward the least restrictive environment.  And if administrators and staff are supporting inclusion properly, that can be in the classroom with same-aged peers.

Inclusion takes thoughtful planning plus preparation of staff, students, and the classroom environment itself.  For this project, we contacted all seventeen of the School District of Waukesha's elementary schools, sought students with special education needs including autism, asked them to choose a friend from school, and chose a day and time we thought might work well in conjunction with this project.  Having older students as helpers expanded the circle of involvement.

As parents of students with special needs ourselves, Denise and I knew that we had to work quickly and efficiently to keep our junior artists engaged.  And, boy, were they ever!  They took great pride in their individual leaves and had smiles for their friends.  They wore their "I M A Good Friend" t-shirts with bubbly enthusiasm.  They made their families -- and I dare say their community -- very proud.  My son's buddy even sacrificed an hour of her birthday to work with him on this amazing project.

Good Friend, Inc., celebrates its third birthday this week.  Please consider a gift to the Waukesha Historical Mural Collaborative Project in support of its efforts to promote awareness, acceptance, and empathy of differently-abled children!

Monday, July 19, 2010

That's HOT!

I don't have a whole lot of feeling for Paris Hilton and her contributions (or lack thereof) to the world, but I must thank her for her catch-phrase, "That's hot," because I use it all the time.  But the work Murals by Design's Chris Vincent is doing on the Waukesha mural is bringing new depth of meaning to that expression.  Consider what she's doing.  She's up 20 feet in the air an arm's-length away from a brick wall being baked all day long by the summer sun.  (Think tandoori cooking.)  Though 85 degrees in the shade is not to be dismissed as typical July heat, add to that 70% humidity and you have a tropical atmosphere -- without the benefit of a fruity, frozen beverage.

I got a chance to visit the muralist at the corner of Barstow and Main today, offering her a variety of hats to help deflect some solar wrath. While the chosen visor makes up in function what it lacks in fashion, I'm not sure how much relief it will provide.  Chris asks that we pray for cool breezes and overcast skies over her parcel of downtown Waukesha for the next three to four weeks as she continues to create the historical cityscape.  Today's not a bad mural painting day, all things considered.

As for the first visible glimpses of this gargantuan mural, "That's hot!"  Be proud, Waukesha Historical Mural Project collaborators and contributors; this is a good work!

There's still time to get involved.  Donations are being accepted through Good Friend, Inc. for another three weeks.  And with the withdrawal of our junior artist friend pair from White Rock, we could use another representative from that school.  If you know anyone with children who attended White Rock in the 2009-'10 school year or earlier, please contact Denise Schamens.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Let me tell you a story ...

One of the 17 Waukesha students with special education needs who will be painting part of this mural is my son. He just finished 5th grade, loves to draw pictures of heroes and villains from his favorite comic stories, and has autism. One of the hallmarks of this neurobiological disorder is difficulty with social interaction.  Because people with autism have brains that are wired differently than most others, the way they process and prioritize information makes forming relationships challenging.

So when at the end of his first grade year I got a note from one of my son's classmate's mothers that her boy wanted to be in the same class as my boy in second grade, I literally wept.  My boy had a friend -- someone who enjoyed him just the way he was.  And while my mommy heart soared, I did not know then just how important such friendships are in the life-long outcome for someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

As it turns out, research indicates that a good determinant of quality of life for someone with ASD is his or her ability to be part of a community.  Having recreational opportunities and people who care about you are just as important as having a job and a place to call home.  But if we in our communities are not including people like my son, where will they belong?

While I appreciate the history of Waukesha that is the focal point of Chris Vincent's mural design, it is the history of my son's social development that tickles me most.  He now has a handful of friends, one of whom is taking time out on her birthday to help him paint a leaf in the border.  She, and all the other "regular education" school friends of children with special education needs, will show us how to make people with different abilities part of our community by being part of this remarkable junior artist team.

It's amazing what a little awareness, acceptance, and empathy can do.  I hope you'll watch it happen from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, August 7, at the corner of Barstow and Main Streets in downtown Waukesha.

For more information about Good Friend and donating to this project, click here.  For more information on the mural, click on the color rendering of the mural above.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Let's get this party started!

By this time next week, Chris Vincent will have prepared the wall to get the mural started.  The plan is to wash the presently unpainted surface, then prime it, and get a sliver of the mural painted.  Reportedly, the Journal Sentinel is planning to have a camera trained on Discount Liquor's wall so they can do a time lapse story as it's finished.  And I know from what Chris has said about the residents at Avalon Square that they'll be watching!

So if your travels take you through downtown Waukesha after July 10, travel (safely) through the intersection at Main and Barstow and have a gander at that wall.  Get an idea of what it would be like to have your name on a leaf ($100 donation), or under a building ($1000 donation).  Donations of $500 or more will be met with an art-quality print of the scaled-down mural. Online donations made through Good Friend's website are tax-deductible now through August 7. We still need another $5K to get the project fully funded!

Did you get a chance to see Chris and Denise on "The Morning Blend" earlier this week?  If not, here's the link to the segment.  Denise refers to Waukesha schools that are at this point NOT represented by a junior artist. We remind families that this project is about a community and a legacy -- not the district or its actions.  So if you know families whose children have attended any of grades 2-6 during the 2009-'10 school year at the following schools: Hadfield, Lowell, Randall, Saratoga, and Summit View, please have them contact Denise (262-391-1369,  And if you're a middle school student who's participated in the Waukesha Community Art Project and you'd like to assist our junior artist team, contact Page Remmers (262-751-7245,

Buzz ... buzzzz ... bbbuuuzzzz ... Do you hear that??  It's not yet another of the zillion mosquitoes in your ear -- it's the community talking about this project!  Keep buzzing and share in the excitement as the first buildings in the mural are painted.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Where we've been ... where we're going"

In Good Friend's quarterly newsletter, we acknowledge what communities have had us come in to present our autism awareness-acceptance-empathy message and which ones have chosen to contract with us for services in the upcoming weeks.  We think it's important to acknowledge what has happened and bring that forward into what will be.

And in a beautiful symbolic sense, that is precisely what will happen with Chris Vincent's mural.  She has worked with local historians to uncover details about the history of our community.  Buildings, landmarks, and concepts associated with Waukesha's heritage will be incorporated in the art.  You'll see Waukesha referred to as Prairieville, Spring City, and Cow County.  The Fox River, Fox Head Brewery, local legend Les Paul, and early 20th century transportation (small airplanes and the steam engine) are also represented in the mural.  Architectural landmarks such as the Waukesha Public Library, Carroll University, and Spence's Observation Tower point to early dedication to education, while Silurian Spring, the Fountain Spring House, and the Woolen Mill pay tribute to early commercial endeavors.  Churches such as St. Joseph's Catholic Church and the 1st United Methodist Church stand out with the Rotunda and the Waukesha County Historical Society & Museum (formerly the Court House and county jail) as examples of religious and civic architecture.

So with all this history, what moves us forward?  For one, this artwork will likely be a hot spot for the School District of Waukesha's elementary school curriculum on local geography.  Third grade students take a bus tour of the city and this will reinforce what they learn.  Second, the team of junior artists who work on the mural on August 7th will reflect the care we take with our younger residents of all abilities, that they might contribute to the city's future in a meaningful way.  Finally, this work of art is a bridge, spanning divides of time and culture. New generations will have an artistic rendering of what generations passed have accomplished and experienced.  And a vibrant downtown emerging as an arts district can celebrate its other layers.

Families and businesses with ties to the past are encouraged to help move this project forward.  Do you know of a connection that might lead to the sponsorship of an aspect of the mural?  If so, feel free to contact Chris through the Waukesha Mural website (click on the photo header of the blog to link) or donate through Good Friend's website (type "Waukesha Mural" in the Purpose field).  Call 414-510-0385 for more information.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Your donation is now TAX-DEDUCTIBLE!

... to the extent permissible by law.  I find it amusing that nonprofit entities have to say this now, as if they have been trying to give tax advice on such matters.  So I am not an attorney and don't play one on TV, but Good Friend, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) public charity, and if you make a donation to the Waukesha Historical Mural Project via Good Friend's website,, you will get an e-receipt you can print and give to your trusted accountant who helps prepare your taxes (unless of course that helper is yourself -- then file it along with all those other goodies).

Here's how this works.  On Good Friend's website, there's a Donate button in the upper right corner of the home page.  Upon clicking there, you will be re-directed to our PayPal donor site.  Note that you DO NOT need a PayPal account to donate!  You may use the digits on your favorite plastic, where available.  This is the important part: To designate your donation for the mural project, you MUST type "Waukesha Historical Mural Project" in the Purpose field.

If you're more of a check-writing kind of person, you're welcome to make your check payable to Good Friend, Inc., and mail it Attn: Waukesha Mural, 808 Cavalier Dr., Waukesha, WI 53186.   A receipt will be issued by mail.  Checks made payable to the Waukesha Historical Mural Project are NOT tax-deductible.

This is a time sensitive issue: Only donations accepted through Good Friend, Inc., by August 7 for this project will be eligible for this tax benefit!  So please make a decision today to support this wonderful collaboration!