Monday, January 17, 2011

A Tree for NOVA Safe Haven

Im painting a mural today at NOVA Safe Haven a shelter for the Seriously Mentally Ill population.

NOVA is nice. Its not like you might be thinking. Not at all. Its absolutely huge, yet has a warm feeling about it. Very CLEAN. Beautiful. Its very much the work of someone who really cares. And the people who work there are also amazing. In the day that I spent there I didn't here a single, even semi-negative remark about their jobs or the people that they help. In fact, while having lunch with them one of the employees asked if upon winning the lottery the others would quit their jobs. In unison, they all quickly responded "No".

When I came into NOVA the first time and they asked me to create a mural, I was presented with an onslaught of different drawings and ideas, all of which belonged to residents there at the shelter. One picture had a bit about veterans, and one showed a recovering alcoholic. One showed the entire process from losing a home, falling hard, and the coming to NOVA and then one day making it back into mainstream. One man drew a flower. Some incorporated religious symbols. All of the drawings were sprinkled with a feeling of transformation and strength. They included words like 'hope', 'faith', and 'Love'.

As I sat and looked through the sketches, Two things quickly became obvious:

1.  ALL of these ideas were important. 

2. This mural has nothing to to with ME

Sure, I can paint. But do I really have the authority to paint all over these walls some symbolic thing that I believe Best sums up everyones experience there at NOVA? No.

This mural isn't to be painted by me. Its to be painted bit by bit... by the people who actually experience NOVA. My job here is to create a space where everyone has the opportunity to leave their mark.

So what is NOVA to me? Well, as of late I think in Trees. You should all know this by now. I strongly believe that everything can be represented by trees. Because trees speak silently in the most powerful ways. So what I've sketched down the Hallway is 2 giant trees, blowing in the wind and a bunch of leaves. Some still on the trees. Some in the air. Some in a little pile on the ground.

To me the fall tree is the perfect representation of the way lives are transformed there at NOVA.
NOVA is the tree. Its big, its strong. Its Beautiful. It changes. But its not going anywhere. The leaves are most obviously the thousands of people who pass through. They are the people who stay for years, and the people who came once for a hot meal.

Once the tree is painted and all of the leaves are there, the residents and passers-through of NOVA Safe Haven will have the opportunity to design and paint one of the leaves.

They will paint the wall themselves with their idea of what this journey means to THEM. Isnt that what is important?

I have a large group of volunteers who have come together to help out today at 1pm. I am so incredibly blessed.

I will post pictures and updates later!

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