A project in Burlington, Vermont, is using art to uplift a hard-working charity, while helping that nonprofit with a job its own tight budget wouldn't otherwise have had room for.
"It's popping out now," said Midhat Hadzic of Feeding Chittenden, Vermont's largest provider of direct emergency food support, referring to how the nonprofit’s formerly drab and gray building is now bright and joyous.
A new mural in the works at Feeding Chittenden is meant as something of a wraparound hug for both a vibrant organization and for the neighbors using its services — many for the first time because of the pandemic's economic toll.
"It's kind of like sunshine, you know?" Hadzic observed. "Immediately, you feel better when it's a sunny day, right? So I think this building now may have a similar effect — welcoming, happy."
The colorful project is thanks to a grassroots group called Mission Murals, which collected private and business donations to fund the work. The gifts included money from community members, a paint sponsorship from Vermont Paint Company, and a grant from VSECU, a Vermont credit union.
"Eating and sharing food is a positive thing, so it should feel that way," said artist Abby Manock, who was hired, at a living wage, to transform Feeding Chittenden.
Manock said she took inspiration from the changing colors of the seasons, adding that she wanted to make sure food recipients feel a greater sense of dignity coming to the charity's headquarters.
"Being here and just seeing how it runs, it's so impressive how many people really, really benefit from this and how hard everyone works here," Manock said of Feeding Chittenden.
Some may wonder whether the money from this effort could actually do more good by buying food instead.
However, Mission Murals said its donors made a point to match the more than $10,000 for the art with another $10,000+ in grocery purchases.
Additionally, the goal really is to use the makeover to elevate the organization, Mission Murals explained, in order to celebrate Feeding Chittenden's contributions and tell its story. In that way, the food provider could possibly use greater visibility to leverage future gifts, Mission Murals suggested.
"Before, it looked kind of sad," food recipient Susmita Mangar said of the exterior of Feeding Chittenden. "But based on looking at the painting right now, it looks really beautiful. It's much better than before."
Manock explained the aesthetic of her design — the execution of which is still underway — is meant to resemble the look of a woven tapestry.
Mangar picked up on that intention.
"In Burlington, there are lots of communities," Mangar said after picking up a box of food. "And it looks like the different colors kind of represent the different communities."
While Mission Murals considers the possibility of future projects to uplift other nonprofits, Feeding Chittenden told NECN it is already discovering a benefit. The nonprofit said it now is easier to give directions and find the place that sticks out a lot more, thanks to its fresh face.
Manock could not say when the mural would be complete — because rainy days in the forecast could disrupt her outdoor painting schedule.