Make no mistake about it, Santa Fe Park carries both a railroad and children’s theme throughout the entire park.
Local children’s handiwork is prominently displayed on two concrete walls which support the bridge. Their work is almost done for the colorful murals.
As Kevin Yates, director of parks and recreation for the Chillicothe Park District, explained, he and the board decided the area needed some decoration and the idea of a mural was proposed. Sending the information on to the school district to see if any of the art teachers were interested in the project, Brian Du Pont answered the email.
With a blank, concrete canvas, Du Pont enlisted the smaller artists of the community to submit their ideas for the murals. The Mossville and South art teacher drew the shape of the walls and asked the younger artists to draw train-related items. The only direction park district officials gave was that the mural needed a train theme to match the rest of the park.
Du Pont then incorporated as many ideas as he could into a final sketch, which was showed to the board.
With the board’s OK and the purchase of supplies, Du Pont spent a day drawing what the mural would look like on the primed canvas.
Then it was time for children to work on the project. Depending on their ages and skill level, Du Pont found jobs for each of them to accomplish. They work for about two hours per work day on the project, and on Saturdays take a break and then work for another two hours. Children come and go, depending on their schedules, and it is not always the same young artists there each time a work day is scheduled.
On Thursday afternoon, the older children worked on the detail work to get one side of the mural basically done while younger children worked on the other side. Around 20 children picked up paintbrushes, and some of the mothers also helped with rolling larger areas or assisted their children with some of the tasks.
“It’s pretty fun, depending on what you’re painting,” said Patrick Stanley as he dotted an area for a tree.
When one task was complete, children would ask Du Pont what they could do next. For the younger students, he outlined box cars on a train that he wanted them to fill in with black paint. Or, they drew clouds on the bright blue sky or created trees. The older children would look at his checklist to see what the next item was. This is the first project, Du Pont said, that he needed a check list to make sure everything gets done.
He seemingly did not run out of tasks for the children to complete, no matter their age or skill. Not all the children were ones he had in class, so one could wonder how he knew what they could do.
Page 2 of 2 - “You know what different hands can do,” said Du Pont. He said his mindset was “it’s just paint. You can go back and fix it.”
One South School third grader has been at many of the work days and drew the smaller train freehand on one side of the mural.
“Everybody just wants to get involved,” said Du Pont.
Sam McIntyre said Thursday was her second time to work on the project. Her cousin, Rylie Milliken, asked her to come. “I like to paint,” said McIntyre.
Some of the children playing at the playground wanted to join in the fun. Du Pont told one girl, “Wear paint clothes Saturday. I’ll put a brush in your hand.”
The old adage many hands make light work may be true in this case as well. In less than half a dozen sessions, Du Pont expects to have the mural done.
“I thought we were going to be working on this until May,” sad Du Pont about the May 12 grand opening deadline.
Once all the painting is done, a sealer will be applied to keep the artists’ work pristine.
Yates of the Chillicothe Park District said earlier in the day he was pleased with the progress at the park.
“We are very grateful for all the volunteer time Brian and the families put into this,” said Yates.