- Associated Press - Sunday, November 27, 2016

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - John Haskins likes to find different ways to express his creativity.

Usually, John said it’s through writing, but a project he has been taking part in is a new experience for him and other members of a Decatur 4-H club. They have put the finishing touches on painting a mural on the front of the former Newsstand building, next to the Northeast Community Fund in Decatur.

After seeing the painting come together, John is among those who see why murals are becoming an increasingly popular form of expression, particularly on the sides of older buildings in Decatur.

“It’s outside of my artistic comfort zone,” said John, 16. “It’s something we could potentially do more of in the future.”

The mural came together in recent weeks with the help of 16 children ranging in age from 9 to 17 years old. Their ideas were incorporated into planning for the project, which John said was based on a Bible verse intended to inspire helping others in need.

He said the verse relates to the “what you do for the least of these, you do for me” passage from Matthew.

The project is a bigger endeavor than the group would typically take on, said Sonya Jefson, one of the parents helping with the work along with two of her children, Benny, 13, and Sammi, 16.

“To get it all organized takes three times longer than you think it would,” Jefson said.

Following the advice of Jerry Johnson from the Decatur Area Arts Council who has painted other murals in downtown Decatur, Jefson said the group needed to make sure they had enough high quality paint to make it all work. She said Sherwin Williams was helpful in making that happen.

Funding for the project came from a Farm Credit Illinois community improvement grant, which are usually targeted to 4-H Clubs and FFA chapters to be used toward smaller rural towns. Sara Foley, a Farm Credit sales and service specialist, said the project stood out because of its ability to brighten up an area of the city.

Applications for 2017 grants are due Feb. 27 and are open to groups in 60 Illinois counties.

A grid design pattern was followed with the parents and children working together to make sure colors were added as intended.

“A project this size doesn’t happen instantly,” said Jodi Haskins, who was working on it with her children Elijah, 14, Isabelle, 11, and Annabelle, 9, along with Connie Brewster and her daughter, Grace, 16. “A lot comes into play. It’s not just something we did one afternoon.”

The painting of the mural is in addition to flowers that were planted last spring. It all brightens the area outside the Northeast Community Fund building, which Executive Director Jerry Pelz appreciates as he has been supportive of the project and enjoys seeing other murals being completed in other nearby parts of town.

“It’s going to bring more color and something nice for people from the overpass to look at,” Pelz said. “It helps to identify the mission and our ministry. It gives a fresh, clean look.”

Pelz said the group ran with the project and has dependably followed through with its plans.

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Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/2epAQeb

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Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com

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