Downtown Bowling Green’s newest mural is a celebration of good things in the area. It also draws attention to the collaborative efforts of a special community, to challenge the stigma of mental health. The mural is showcased at The Connection Center of Harbor Behavioral Health, 309 S. Main St., a clubhouse-based resource center for members with mental and physical health and/or substance use disorders. Center members participate in health, nutrition and wellness activities and support programs while also receiving social skills training.
Members— ranging in age from 18 to over 80— are integral to the success of the Center, according to Manager Verna Mullins. “We empower our members to participate in everything happening at the Center,” she explains. “We build on their strengths and talents and identify the things they can share. In fact, members facilitate many of the groups we have here.
Frances Griffith, a clinical psychology doctoral candidate at Bowling Green State University, began a professional placement as a community advocate at The Center last summer, during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center was closed, and staff were making daily well calls to their more than 100 members. As Griffith began making phone calls, she got the sense that members were interested in new art projects.
“Members had done a mural at a previous Center location, and were interested in doing a new one here,” said Griffith, a Certified Art Therapist.
“We approached members with the idea of doing a mural, and everyone was in agreement.”
Griffith created a Facebook group and Zoom calls to plan what to include in the mural, and to stay connected about the project’s progress. Over the course of the summer, members discussed the elements they wanted to include in the mural. “Members wanted to emphasize the connections they had with the Center,” Griffith explained. “In addition, they wanted to highlight landmarks in Bowling Green and some of the local ‘wildlife’ here— a lizard from the Great Black Swamp, and a bobcat and falcon as a nod to local sports teams.” The centerpiece of the mural is a silhouette of five individuals with arms locked, which Griffith explained “shows the connection among the members and the clubhouse community.”
Last fall the Center was able to re-open briefly, allowing members to meet in person. “Previously, Frances (Griffith) only talked with members by phone and online,” said Mullins. “She never met them in person but came up with a project that met every social, emotional, spiritual and artistic need we had. It’s been a blessing to have her involved.”
Bringing the mural to life
A mural committee created the final drawings and was also tasked with painting the mural. Griffith had the wall power-washed and primed, and then traced the outlines for the mural with a projector at night. The actual painting took place in March and April of this year.
The mural has attracted a lot of attention. “Passers-by are 100% positive about it, and many wanted to learn more about the Center,” Griffith said. The mural will be a part of future community events and a stop listed on a local map or murals in the area. The mural “is so much more than I expected,” Griffith said. “I’m excited that so many of the members could contribute, and how successful the process of collaborating was for all of us.”