From Broken Windows to Beauty

delaney w muralA Reflection from Delaney McCaffrey, high school senior who designed, coordinated, and installed the Aquinas Center’s newest mural on Fernon Street. The mural will be dedicated on Saturday, May 9th at 12:30PM during our One Table event.

In August 2013 I attended JusticeworX Philadelphia, a weeklong community service summer camp. For that week I stayed at the Aquinas Center and got to know Bethany. As the week went on, I learned about the Broken Window Theory, which explains how city beautification can encourage positive change, such as less vandalism and lower crime rates. Inspired by my experience, I reached out to Bethany later that summer and asked if I could work with her and the Aquinas Center for my Gold Award Project.

For my project I brought together kids from my suburban town and the St. Thomas Aquinas neighborhood, to paint a cultural mural at the center. My favorite part about the Aquinas Center is the spirit of community and inclusion. Everyone is so nice and open-minded and I loved getting to know members of the community over the course of my project.

I worked with artist Delia King, a muralist for the Mural Arts program in Philadelphia that creates murals throughout the city. She taught me about the messages that urban art sends and the technical and material aspects of installing a mural.

The first step was to design the mural. I chose to incorporate cultural textile designs to represent the diverse community. I sketched out a design, which we then projected and traced onto giant pieces of paper called parachute cloth. After choosing colors, we numbered each section of the mural according to which color it would be. The painting was a community event in painting-by-number fashion. This was my favorite part of the process because it allowed the entire community to be involved. When all of the pieces were painted, I installed the mural to the wall on Fernon Street essentially by gluing the pieces to the wall with special mural glue. After applying a sealing coat, the mural was finally complete! What surprised me most was how long and difficult of a process it was to create a mural. I had seen tons of murals all over Philadelphia, but it wasn’t until I made my own that I realized just how much is put into creating public art.

After receiving my Gold Award in November, I applied for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award for this project and I was recognized as an outstanding applicant. This led me to be chosen as one of six Girl Scouts to join Pat Carroll, Chief Executive Officer for Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey, and Anna Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts USA, to attend the Let Girls Learn initiative hosted by Michelle Obama at the White House. The purpose of this initiative was to encourage girls global to further their educations, and we were the only Girl Scouts invited to this event. I felt immensely grateful and excited to be chosen for this honor.

It was so much fun meeting and getting to know the other girls I was with and the entire thing was so interesting to hear the President and Mrs. Obama speak. I also got to meet New Jersey Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and Senator Cory Booker. It was so interesting to get to see how the government works from the inside. It’s amazing to think that a mural I created at the Aquinas Center took me all the way to Washington, DC.

delaney senior photo

Delaney has not yet decided which college she will attend, but plans to study engineering and journalism. Come and meet her in person on Saturday, May 9th!

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