Only two weeks ago, one may have driven by the 30,000-square-foot, corrugated-metal Habitat for Humanity ReStore at 31 Willis Road in North Fort Myers without noticing it. Then a bunch of high school students showed up with buckets of paint and went to work and the building went from white to Technicolor.
Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties President and CEO, Kitty Green, explains: "For years I've been thinking we needed to do something to make the building look better." Donated by Raymond Building Supply, the building was "a wonderful giftbut most people don't see it. This year I was talking with an artist friend and she told me that Pat Collins, my neighbor, does murals. I talked to Pat about a mural that would convey our mission and also represent what we sell in the store to fund our mission. She asked if she could have some fun with it. I said 'sure,' so she took a whimsical approach."
Pat Collins, who substitute teaches for art classes in elementary and middle schools and at Alliance for the Arts and Repertory Theater art camps, says that she worked on ideas for the mural for a couple of months before she and her six high school student volunteers from North Fort Myers and Fort Myers High Schools slapped the first blue paint on the front of the building.
Portions of the mural on the painted by artist Pat Collins and high school students Habitat for Humanity ReStore in North Fort Myers.
The students were to paint the background for Collins' life-size, stenciled figures of ReStore shoppers parading from the store with their purchases, but painting on a "canvas" of deeply corrugated metal can be tricky. "I told them to apply the paint in short strokes," Collins explained. The effect of the mix of blue and yellow and green slap-strokes is not unlike the impressionistic technique of Vincent Van Gogh. "The kids brought a lot of energy to the project," Collinst grinned.
Creating the over-large stencils presented another challenge. "What could I find big enough to use for life-size stencils? Kitty came up with the idea of using banners that had been left over from Habitat events. It worked. It's perfect."
ReStore customers are enjoying the show. "I love it," they say. "It's good to see something here." "It's different." "It's so colorful."
The biggest fan of the project may be Habitat Volunteer Coordinator, Valentin Luera. "Wow. That's cool. Every time I come to work, there's something new. Awesome. My favorite is the people lifting the walls of the house. We work hard to build as many houses as possible every year and it shows that." Valentin is passionate about his work with Habitat. "I've never had a job I loved as much as I love this one. I worked hard at my previous job, but I was working for the company. Now I'm working to help people."
Luera encourages others to volunteer in any of the several volunteer capacities offered by Habitat. Artist Pat Collins, for instance, is donating her time and skill to the project of turning the exterior of the Habitat ReStore into the facsimile of a fun, picture book illustration not only of the amazing variety of ReStore merchandise, but also of the mission of Habitat:
"Seeking to put God's love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope."
Student volunteer Cameron Green summed up the purpose of the mural nicely. "Before, people saw only a big white wall. Now they will see the mural and like it and want to come in."
Collins' work on the store will continue after the rainy season. After all, there's a lot of canvas left.
A wealth of information, including videos, about the Habitat for Humanity mission and work, about volunteer needs and opportunities, and about the ReStore is available at habitat4humanity.org. You may contact Pat Collins at pinknosedog.comcast.net.