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Recovering teens find new outlets through art

Frances McDonald, executive director of Mark Making, fills in the background of a mural painted by teens from the Scholze Center. Photo by Doug Strickland .

The light and glow that emanates from the faces of the three teen artists is almost as bright as the colors in the shapes and figures on the 300-square-foot mural they helped create.

Each beams with a sense of pride and accomplishment as they gaze upon the nearly completed mural with its giant floral designs. Called “Painted Gardens,” it hangs in the Mark Making studio space in North Chattanooga.

The piece, which goes up Sunday on an exterior wall at the Hart Gallery building, represents so much more than a piece of art to these young people. All participated in the mural project as part of their substance abuse treatment at the Scholze Center for Adolescent Treatment. Artist Frances McDonald, executive director of Mark Making, led the project with help and instruction from the staff at the community-building public art initiative.

All told, 15 young people worked on the mural; some doing the initial design, others doing the layout and another crew doing the painting. The project did as much to transform the lives of Cole, 17, MiKayla, 15, and Collin, 16, as it did to transform the blank 10.5-by-28-foot canvas into a work of art.

“I had bad trust issues,” admits MiKayla, who had no prior art experience. “Frances said that, when the paint comes out of the tip of the brush, you have to trust it. She was right. I started to trust it and, when it was over, I felt like I could do it. I never thought I could be good at it.”



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