Inspiring Art The Sale St. Baptist Church Murals
Amazing art has been created at the Sale St. Baptist Church in Lake Charles. Murals cover much of the wall space on the two-story children’s building adjacent to the church, which was designed for Sunday school.
“This project was inspired by scripture and designed to share Biblical truths through visual art,” say artist Erica Shaw, who created the murals. “Each element in the murals has a direct scripture reference.”
The first floor is for nursing mothers, infants, babies and toddlers. With a theme of town and park, this floor is all about nature and includes street signs and campground scenes.
“A key element is the tree of life, located outside the nursery, Shaw says. “It embodies elements of Louisiana culture, such as native animals, a lab retriever and a special bird, who is looking left with open wings, representing a thankfulness to the murals that were previously in the building, open arms to the present, and pointing right towards the future and what is to come. “
Telephone lines serve as a transition. They symbolize communication, a key concept of spreading the gospel. Each of the poles is numbered, and the numbers are actually scripture verses that are part of the bigger picture, and explain where each element of the project came from.
The second floor is designed to be an urban city. “This floor is laden with arrows,” Shaw continues. “These arrows represent the path of life to encourage and show the children that life is not a straight and easy journey, and that its good to expect change and challenges.” There are elements of real street signs, and the telephone wire on the poles is actual wire used on telephone poles.
Art That Unifies
Themed rooms, along with more generic Sunday school rooms, distinguish each floor. “These Sunday school rooms are often used by other groups, so the challenge was to include art that unifies the room with the overall theme, but also allows it to be used independently,” Shaw says. “We accomplished this on the first floor by hanging custom art with animals and scripture verses. The animals and verses correspond to the name of the room. For example, the ‘jumpers’ room has paintings of frogs and rabbits.”
Upstairs, a shoe print cutout was utilized to create dynamic patterns and movement on the Sunday school room walls.
“The specialized rooms were designed with a Disney feel to them,” Shaw explains. “My hope was that visitors would feel as if they were walking into a whole new world. The first floor has two camp rooms that embody this idea: the daytime room and a nighttime room. Both have large and detailed murals of scenes you would find in those locations. The nighttime room is especially fun because there are teepees with lights, star curtains, and lights on the ceiling. When you walk in and turn off the main lights, you really feel like you’re at a campground at night. We even took the excess from the telephone poles and finished them, turning them into small wood benches.”
What was her favorite part of the project? “Recycling a set of outdated lockers and trash cans,” she responds. “I used a pointillism-inspired technique to make the vibrant and colorful firework patterns, and then layered them with stars.”
Phoebe Thomas assisted with the custom art hung on the first floor. “She hand-painted the scripture verses on the animal paintings in each classroom, and also painted the letters on the alphabet in the nursery,” Shaw says. “She is a very talented calligrapher and works in a ton of mediums. It was a joy to work with her. I want to mention it is a big deal to collaborate and trust someone with original art, and after seeing her work I couldn’t wait to see what she would do with it. I am so pleased with the results. In fact, we are in the process of getting prints available.”
The project was conceived mid-November of 2014, and was created in an incredibly short time period. “The directors, Carrie Moreau and Jessica Minton, came by my home to ask my opinion on color schemes for accent walls, and it grew from there,” Shaw explains. “We took time off for the holidays, about two weeks around Christmas. “The murals were completed February 24.”
Shaw admits the artwork can be a bit overwhelming at first. “So, we are in the process of recording explanations and making them available through a cell phone app. Just like in a museum, visitors will be able to scan a label and hear in detail the background behind the inspired paintings.”
Much of history utilized art to share the Gospel of Christ, so this is just a modern take on an old tradition, Shaw says.
“What is special about this building, this art, is that it is telling the story of both scripture and local Louisiana culture. I worked alongside the builders and heard their stories, their passions, their lives, and I did my best to incorporate the wildlife culture into the lessons of the Bible. For although the Bible is timeless, it is also deeply intimate. In that sense, I believe this was the Lord’s gift to the Lake Charles community. I am so pleased to be associated with the paint and brush, which are mere tools in God’s hand.”
About the Artist
Originally from New England, Erica Shaw studied drawing and painting at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art in Old Lyme, Conn., and went on to Boston Architectural College. In 2008, she moved to Chico, Ca., where she learned graphic design at Butte College. She was then baptized for the second time in her life and rededicated herself to Jesus Christ, which changed the way she pursued her art. Her work in Los Angeles showed her how murals can become a part of the cultural identity of a town. She and her husband moved to Lake Charles in February 2014.
Charity is a very big part of Shaw’s life. She donated a painting to the Abrahams Tent Love Auction, which will be held March 21. At the American Heart Association Gala on May 30, she will be painting live from 6-7:30 p.m. Her painting will be auctioned off with the proceeds benefitting the America Heart Association
Shaw’s home studio is almost complete, and she’s preparing to take on students for private lessons with a focus on drawing and painting. Her passion is to encourage and grow individuals by developing basic skills and encouraging creativity.
www.ericashawart.com, www.facebook.com/ericashawartist, #ericashawart –