Community mural to be displayed in 4-H Children’s Garden

This past summer, garden visitors were invited to “be a part of the art” by contributing to a community mural.

Painting the mural.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens and the Michigan State University (MSU) Horticulture Gardens, garden visitors were invited to “be a part of the art” by contributing to a community mural designed by local artist Kelly Boyle of Okemos. Upon completion, the mural will be displayed in the outdoor 4-H Children’s Garden.

“The mural is a colorful celebration of the 4-H Children’s Garden,” said Norm Lownds, Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens curator. “It will be a wonderful, exciting and vibrant addition to the garden!”

Boyle is a freelance artist, water fitness instructor and adult education teacher. She is an MSU graduate with a degree in English. After graduation, she managed a screen printing operation in Lansing. She has also taught art at the Okemos Nursery School and the Stepping Stones Montessori in East Lansing and hosted summer youth art camps at her home.

“I used to visit the garden all the time with my children. I just love the place,” Boyle said. “My kids would catch frogs, go to the fountains, hop on the chimes, and they loved running through the maze and measuring themselves!”

This is one of six Kelly Boyle community murals, five of which are in the Lansing area. In addition to the 4-H Children’s Garden mural, three murals were made for Meridian Township, one was for Central Montessori School, and one is at Raven Hill Discover Center in East Jordan, Michigan. Each mural is unique and has its own theme and story based on its location.

“The 4-H Children’s Garden mural is inspired by things in the garden,” Boyle said. “It will be installed close to the frog pond, so there is a frog and a lily pad in the design. It is a whimsical, playful, childlike design; everybody should be able to recognize something from the garden.”

The mural also includes a rainbow, handprints, children, butterflies, sunflowers, Wilbur the peacock and the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland.
The mural is 32 feet wide by four feet tall and consists of four 4- by 8-foot panels. Youth and adult participants at the 4-H Children’s Garden Birthday Bash, as well as attendees at the MSU Horticulture Gardens Herbal Luncheon and Garden Day, were able to paint a section of the mural. A color palette was provided by Boyle for each panel, ensuring a cohesive feel for the completed mural. It will be installed in the 4-H Children’s Garden on the fence near the train tracks behind the Alice in Wonderland Maze.

“I love to watch everyone as they paint,” Boyle said. “Some approach painting with trepidation, but when nudged they will try it. You can see a deep concentration, joy and satisfaction on their faces as they paint. The colors are so vibrant and rich.

“I recall one boy who was only about 2 who wanted to paint a section of the mural. I was a little hesitant but gave him a brush and colors for the lily pad. He was so careful and meticulous when painting.”

To create a mural, Boyle cuts and power sands the panels made of aluminum and plastic. She then draws the design on the panels and paints the black outlines. She might also paint some background colors, if needed. Then the community is invited to paint the panels, either in one day or spread out across multiple days. Boyle then goes back over the outline and touches up the mural. The final step is to apply a protective coating or varnish to seal the mural.

“When I was learning how to do murals, I called Tony Hendrick, who has a mural around the RE Olds Museum in Lansing. He gave me so much help and information. I am really grateful for his help,” she said.

The mural was supported by a private donation from Art and Marlene Cameron. Art recently retired as the director of the MSU Horticulture Gardens. Marlene is a graphic artist and has assisted Boyle with murals in the past as a “muralista” – a mural painter.

“Marlene has helped with the murals for Meridian Township in the past. She thought it would be great to do one for the 4-H Children’s Garden.”

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