By Alice Kenny
Theresa Flaherty turns on a projector and casts her blueprint onto an 18-square-foot canvas divided into six equal sections temporarily housed in a Terrance Cardinal Cooke Catholic Center conference room. After pairing her inspiration with hours of painstaking computer design work, this Catholic Charities volunteer’s creation is ready to roll.
Her creativity provides the essential link between corporate volunteers yearning to brighten the lives of persons in need and locations where some of those served by Catholic Charities live and thrive.
Catholic Charities Beacon of Hope, for example, provides supportive housing and vocational transition programs for persons challenged by mental illness. While providing much needed services, the sites could benefit from brightening.
Meanwhile, corporate volunteers from the financial services company Deloitte LLP and the media company Viacom offered their help to cheer up these sites.
But their know-how was in business, not in art.
So Catholic Charities Director of Volunteer Services Staci-Jo Bruce advertised for a volunteer mural artist to design paint-by-number-type canvases that corporate volunteer groups could complete. Voila…Theresa saw the ad posted and signed right up.
“A lot of art out now is about self expression,” Theresa says, as she traces her projected design on to the canvases. “I want to go someplace else, to give something to the viewer to uplift them.”
Once she finishes her outlines, corporate volunteers can dawn aprons, pick up paint brushes and try their hands in a new line of work.
They have already completed six designs — 36 canvases all told — that now brighten Beacon of Hope locations.
“The unusual coupling of artists with corporate volunteers and persons in need creates a dynamic where everyone wins,” says Damian Buzzerio, who assists with the Catholic Charities volunteer program.
For corporate volunteers, it offers a morale booster where artistic clerks and less artistic bosses swap leadership roles as they take advantage of the opportunity to help those in need.
For Theresa, who earns her living as a book and poster illustrator, volunteering provides a stress reliever that offers an opportunity to create according to her own inspiration.
And for Beacon of Hope residents, the donated art serves as an uplifting reminder that people, many of whom they never meet, care enough to brighten their homes and lives.
“I think art should be where you need it,” Theresa says, “for regular people and not just in galleries.”
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