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Skidmore College

Skidmore students channel artistic talent to help kids

February 18, 2015

by Jessica Kong ’16

Saratoga Center for the Family is an agency that serves children who are victims of domestic violence, neglect, and other forms of abuse. That important work faced a setback on May 5, 2013, when the center was engulfed by a fire that completely demolished the basement containing its Child Advocacy Center.

Family Center fire
Fire left the Child Advocacy
Center in ruins.

The Family Center’s entire staff was temporarily relocated to Nolan House, part of the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church on Circular Street, but was able to return to its original location on Ballston Avenue four months later, with the help of funds raised by local restaurants.

Although the walls in the renovated Child Advocacy Center had been painted with bright colors, there was something missing, and that caught the attention of Rene Alpert ’15, who began an internship at the Center for the Family in January 2014. She knew that a comforting mural created by Skidmore students had existed before the fire, and she was eager to replace it.

To get things rolling, Alpert reached out to Skidmore Pro Arts, a campus club dedicated to the fine arts, by contacting Pro Arts member Lily Reinhold ’15, a studio art major. Reinhold enthusiastically enlisted the help of other Skidmore artists, and soon the group started to blueprint the images during club meetings while keeping in mind the suggestions of a cityscape theme from the kids at the center.

Said Reinhold, “We wanted to create an image that was calming and comforting for children when they came in, one that reflected a community and all the possible interests that a child might have.”

Child Center mural 
The new mural brightens things up.

Pro Arts members Camilla Busby ’15 (studio art major and creative writing minor) and Elizabeth Stone ’15 (studio art major, art history and religion double minor) sketched the scenes on the walls. The next day, Reinhold and a dozen other Skidmore Pro Arts club members completed the mural.

Painted with hues that conjure up the nostalgia of classic carnival games, the mural stands warm and welcoming in the center’s waiting room. A pink and white striped sweet shop cheerfully resides next to a bookstore. A unicorn stands beside the bookstore entrance, the floor of which is plaid pink and leads to a haven of books. Next door, a grinning green dinosaur serves a swirl of ice cream to a tiny clown out of a mint green ice cream stand spotted with plum purple. Adjacent is the pet shop. Rows of toys can be seen through the window of a bright blue toy store.

“The mural is what brings everything together. We bring the kids over to the mural and it instantly makes them feel comfortable,” said Child Advocacy Center Coordinator Jennifer Wormley.

The center’s website gives a strong endorsement of the project: “Losing our Child Advocacy Center after the fire was devastating, not only because of the significance of that space, but because of the special mural artwork on the walls that would be lost forever. Our dear friends from Skidmore College’s Pro Arts club came by and donated their time, energy and incredible artistic talent to make our CAC a truly magical place for children. They are unbelievable!”

The walls at the Child Advocacy Center are soon to be filled with more Skidmore art. Busby and Stone expressed excitement about a new mural they are planning to create this spring 2015 semester.

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