When Sandy Abraham asked a group of students what they wanted to see at the Waupaca Recreation Center, their answer was a mural.
They specifically wanted a mural that incorporated basketball players, said Abraham, who is the center’s youth coordinator.
She talked to Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jenson about the idea.
He admits he was initially skeptical about it due to concerns about something happening to the mural once it was completed.
However, Abraham and others continued to prod him.
“It was just a blue wall. We wanted a refreshing look,” she said.
Abraham sought names of people who could do a project.
Amanda Durfee’s name came up in a conversation.
The 17 year old is a senior at Waupaca High School.
“By the end of June, we contacted Amanda,” Abraham said.
They gave her a picture of the department’s new logo and pictures of people playing different sports.
“But they wanted me to incorporate something more than athletics,” said Durfee.
Jenson told her to come up with a concept.
“When I saw her sketch, I told her to go for it,” he said.
Durfee’s sketch included Brainard’s Bridge Park.
“I think it’s the most iconic park in Waupaca,” she said.
With a design in place, Abraham headed to local businesses to get the paint.
John Cross, the center’s youth supervisor, and several teens accompanied Abraham.
They explained what they wanted to do, and everyone immediately said “yes” and told them to come back if they needed more paint, Abraham said.
JR’s Waupaca True Value Hardware, Noffke Lumber, The Paint Store and Torborg’s Waupaca Lumber donated about $400 worth of paint for the project.
Before Durfee started painting, she did research about painting murals and learned it is important to draw a grid and to also step back and look at the mural throughout the process.
She started painting in July and hopes to complete the project by the end of September.
The mural is on a wall by the center’s back entrance.
“It will take their breath away when they walk in,” Abraham said of Durfee’s work.
Jenson said there is a trend for public buildings to incorporate art and murals into their space, to be more inviting and less institutional.
That topic came up when he and Andrew Whitman, the city’s recreation programmer, visited Kasey Kaepernick at the Waupaca County Courthouse.
Kaepernick is the county’s Health Beginnings manager and Trauma Informed coordinator.
When Jenson and Whitman met with him to discuss developing scholarships for low-income families who want to enroll in park and recreation programs, Whitman commented on the mural that is on a wall in the Children and Family Unit.
The mural is an outdoor scene, and there are 12 ladybugs hidden within it, Kaepernick said.
A grant from the Anthony Family Foundation provided the funding for the work to be done.
The project took place between six months and a year ago, and Kaepernick said it is part of a cultural change under way in the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.
“The idea is to create an environment that is safe and welcoming,” he said.
Kaepernick said it is amazing how a little bit of paint changes perceptions and makes people feel differently.
“We’ve gotten a lot of great comments from people walking in,” Jenson said of the rec center project. “It’s something different. It’s very nice.”
Kaepernick said projects such as these will “create a community of caring.”
As Durfee works on the project, those visiting the center tell her to be careful on the ladder.
This is not her first mural project.
When Durfee was in seventh grade, she and her friends painted a mural at Waupaca Middle School.
Abraham likes watching the progression.
She said Durfee will be paid for her work, and a protective coating will go over her completed work.
Durfee is the daughter of Ben and Amy Durfee, of Waupaca.
“It’s been fun,” she said regarding her work on the mural. “I like it, because it’s not the typical job. My friends are jealous.”