Painting New Life on Grounds at Unity Village
by Rev. Jeniffer Hutchins
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Taking this belief in unlimited and inspirational thinking, Unity Arts Ministry launched a large-scale mural project in the tunnels of Unity World Headquarters in July. The wall went from dull to dramatic in a matter of days with the enthusiastic energy of 20 International Youth of Unity (IYOU) teens and the paintbrushes of many Unity friends.
The concept for the mural project came from the imagination of Jim Blake, CEO of Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village. Blake’s inspired idea came after seeing the artwork of graffiti artist Scribe, a local legend, on the wall of Children’s Mercy Hospital in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
“I was moved by the profound audaciousness of the concept,” Blake said. “The idea of bringing street art indoors and appreciating it in such a way—I wanted to be able to do something similar. Our tunnels are boring and drab—much like city streets can become—and art of any kind can bring new life to a space people often just accept as one that can have no life. I believe we can add art and give life to any place we choose, even the underground tunnels.”
As the founding minister of Unity Arts Ministry, I was excited when local artist Jenny Hahn mentioned that the Unity CEO was looking for someone to head up a mural project on the grounds. An inspired meeting between Blake and artists from Unity Arts Ministry led to the first mural that utilized IYOU teens during their annual retreat at Unity Village.
In preparation for the big day, the Unity Arts Ministry team blocked out a large grid across a wall space more than 29 feet wide. When the group of teens from IYOU arrived in the Unity Village tunnels, we gave instructions to create artwork that represented what Unity means to them. Within a short period of time, the once dull walls were lit up with brightly colored images of hearts, hands, doves, and shining lights.
“The teens didn’t get caught up in self-doubt or comparison,” Hahn said. “They just dove in and painted freestyle from the heart. It was a beautiful thing to witness.”
The energy of the space was transformed not only with color, but with the spirit of Unity expressed in the moment, as this group of youth from around the country painted, chatted, and sang together in unison. Shannon Sleeper, Silent Unity prayer associate, said, “The IYOU blew me away with their creative energy, talent, and focused determination to leave their artistic mark on Unity walls.” At the end of their session, the teens had completed half of the mural squares and had set the tone of the artwork unfolding on the wall.
Unity Arts Ministry then invited individuals from the local Unity community to participate in completing the mural. One by one we encouraged brave souls to pick up a paintbrush and make their mark. Participants included several employees from Unity World Headquarters and Unity Worldwide Ministries.
A colorful collage of inspirational images now lines the wall and those walking the tunnels on their way to lunch are greeted with vibrant, life-affirming art. Blake’s vision of adding “art and life” to the tunnels has been manifested, and he says it’s even better than he had imagined.
Rev. Jeniffer Hutchins is the founding minister of Unity Arts Ministry. The mission of Unity Arts Ministry is to inspire personal growth, healing, and transformation through spiritual enrichment and creative expression. Drawing upon her ministerial training and experience as an art educator, Hutchins presents creative workshops and gives inspirational talks at churches and retreats around the country. As a professional artist, her artwork has been represented by galleries in the Southeast and showcased in solo and juried exhibitions nationally.
To learn more about Unity Arts Ministry, visit the website at unityartsministry.org.