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CHILDREN MAKE CONNECTIONS THROUGH ART IN BIDDEFORD AND IRAQ

Pepperell Mill Building #9, on York Street, which houses the Biddeford offices of YCCAC’s WIC Program and Economic Opportunity Department, has undergone a major transformation, at least to its exterior.

Artist Pat Perry, a member of One Blue Sky Project, a primary project founded and funded by The Good Works Foundation, spent eight days over the past two weeks painting a mural on the building’s entire front side.

The image of a boy, perhaps 12 or 13 years old, wearing a red ball cap and talking on a phone, fills the wall. The boy’s face is mostly hidden, as he sits cross-legged and is seen from the side. The casualness of his posture, the fingers of a hand resting on a leg and the partially shaded bottom of a sneaker pressing up under an arm, evokes a sense of calm and safety. Who is on the other end of the line? It’s unknown. But the child’s gaze is fixed on a space in the distance, somewhere between an opening in a broken wire fence on one side and twisted barbed and concertina wire on the other.

The connection goes all the way to Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, where a mural of a girl, also facing away from the viewer, takes the call.

The Mural 2019 Project, with complementing murals in Biddeford, Maine and Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, is meant to bridge a gap between cultures, peoples—nations.

“While there are many things that make people different, there are far greater things that make human beings the same. Regardless of where a person comes from, everyone laughs, cries, imagines, and hopes,” reads a description from the organization’s website.

The mural in Iraq was painted between May 18 and May 27; the Biddeford mural was completed between May 29 and June 5.

Engine, a Biddeford-based nonprofit whose mission is to connect and inspire communities through art, design, and education, served as host for the project.

“The focus is to show the positive commonalities that both groups share, simply because they are children. This communication expands the children’s ability to empathize. Instilling a sense of empathy in children prevents bullying, curbs aggressive and violent behavior and increases students’ overall academic success,” read the website.

The mural will be a longstanding feature in the community. The artist Pat Perry has interpreted designs offered him by children to create an image that “enrich the communities and instills pride.”

“Communications breaks down walls and creates understanding.”