2013 Mural Contest Finalist: 'You’re Not Alone'

Photograph of a painting showing 2 hands forming a heart around Safe Place logo

This winter, runaway and homeless youth programs funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau were given the chance to win the materials to paint a mural in their facilities. Here are the essay and artwork submitted by the second place winner, YMCA Safe Place Services of Louisville, KY.

Many times, non-verbal gestures are how we choose to communicate with one another. Whether it be a hand gesture, written note or a simple facial expression, we can say so much without even moving our lips. In this mural design we try to symbolize the feeling youth receive when they enter Shelter House, a feeling where verbal words only take meaning when accompanied by positive non-verbal actions and attitudes. 

YMCA Safe Place Services Shelter House Program is a 24-hour homeless and at-risk youth shelter for teens aged 12 to 17 in Louisville, KY. Shelter House is a voluntary program, meaning that the youth must want to stay, and their parents have to be in agreement. Parents and children of all walks of life seek out Shelter House for help, so through our words and actions, we need to show them that we are committed and willing to do just that. In addition to Shelter House, our location provides other services and programs to youth in need. Y-NOW is a program at our facility that mentors teens of incarcerated parents and Street Outreach is a program that goes out in the community and talks to youth about issues affecting them and how we can help.

The idea for this mural and the initial draft was created by a design team consisting of Shelter House youth (past and current), Shelter House staff and Tiffany Ackerman, a local artist. We had a round table meeting in which the youth were left to talk about how the Shelter House program had helped in their lives. They first brought up “to make them feel like they are not alone and alienated.” They also brought up “showing that someone cared,” giving them a safe place to stay, showing that there is light at the end of the tunnel and others. Each youth was given a different way the shelter helped and came up with their own examples. These all were brought together. The youth then toyed around with a few different examples until they came up with this.

The mural design is a drawing of two hands coming together to form a heart. Inside of the heart will be a house with the words “You’re not alone” written above.  The Safe Place sign will be in the background of the artwork, being the catalyst that allows all this to be possible. The background will show how they felt alone and in the dark at the top, and how they began to see hope and a bright future at the bottom. The concept of the design is to show that—through open, loving hands—these kids have a place to call home, a place where they can feel safe. 

In anticipation of future youth at the Shelter House program, the design team came up with an idea where the hands that form the heart serve another purpose. Not only will the hands display the symbol of the heart, they will also provide a place for hundreds of youth to add their own personal “touch,” as we will ask every youth in the program to outline their hand in one of the larger hands. The hands will all overlap, allowing more youth to be involved for many months after the initial mural is complete. The outlined hands will be painted different colors, sizes and shades, portraying the differences in all of us.  Along with youth from the Shelter House program, volunteer youth, Board members, youth from the Y-NOW program, clients from the Street Outreach program, community members, donors and others will be encouraged to put their handprint in the mural. We anticipate that over 500 youth and 100 adult volunteers, mentors, etc. will have a “hand” in this mural.

In addition to the hands, to ensure the mural continues to speak to and engage many generations of Shelter House teens and staff for years to come, the house will be interactive. By covering the house with a clear adhesive, youth, staff and community members will be encouraged to leave and pick up messages. The design team hopes that this interaction will inspire youth and staff to leave and receive anonymous notes of inspiration or provide a note when someone needs it. In keeping with the theme of non-verbal gestures and actions, the design team feels that the inspirational notes will encourage all forms of communication and instill the knowledge that, no matter how alone you feel, “You’re Not Alone.” 

More Mural Entries

We’re honored to share the creative and moving designs of this year’s participants in the 2013 Mural Contest slideshow

9-5 pm Eastern