The Century Walk Corporation

Students brighten walls of Naperville garage

December 18, 2011 — Source: Daily Herald — Author: Matt Arado

Few structures evoke the word “blah” like municipal parking garages. But the Van Buren garage in downtown Naperville is now more likely to leave visitors saying “wow.”

Students from Naperville North and Waubonsie Valley high schools spent the summer painting murals on the walls of the fourth- and third-floor elevator lobbies of the garage. The artists and their families gathered at the garage Sunday for a formal dedication of the work.

“They’ve transformed a bland parking garage facility into a masterpiece,” said IdaLynn Wenhold, executive director of KidsMatter, a Naperville-based nonprofit group that organized the project.

The students learned about the project through their art teachers. Roughly eight students per school participated. The Waubonsie artists painted the third floor murals, while the Naperville North artists handled the fourth floor.

Overseeing them all was Timm Etters, a well-known professional artist who has painted more than 60 murals inside Naperville-area schools.

“I’ve often been able to work in front of kids,” Etters said Sunday, “but this gave me the chance to work with kids.”

Sisters Amanda and Rachel Huff of Aurora painted one of the murals on the third floor of the garage. The basic theme of their floor was empowerment, and they collaborated on a painting that shows hands distributing food items from a box to other outstretched hands.

“We wanted to show that kids here are empowered to help out,” said Rachel Huff, a senior at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora. Her sister Amanda is a student at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

Beth Tomashek, a senior at Naperville North High School, contributed a painting to the fourth floor of the garage. It shows cupped hands holding up the world, with the words “Pixar,” “Blue Sky” and “Ringling College” on it.

Tomashek, who hopes to enter the animation field, said the painting represents her ideal future. Pixar and Blue Sky are well-known animation companies, and Ringling is an arts and design school she’d like to attend.

“I’m so happy I got the chance to be part of this,” she said.

The mural projects were funded by a grant awarded to KidsMatter by Naperville Century Walk Corp., a group that oversees public art initiatives in Naperville. To date, the top three of the five lobbies in the Van Buren garage have been painted by local high school students. (Naperville Central High School painted the fifth floor lobby last year.) Naperville Century Walk and KidsMatter hope to recruit students from Neuqua Valley and Metea Valley high schools to paint the first two floors in the near future.