Meaningful Employment: The Difference Between Night and Day. The Story Behind the Vine Street Goodwill Mural.
Written by Hannah Casey
The month of March felt more like 100 days than 31 with new COVID-19 guidelines first taking effect. Goodwill stores voluntarily closed to follow state and local government recommendations for social distancing.
The extra time allowed employees to deep clean each store. It also presented the opportunity for reflection.
While at the Vine Street location, the discussion arose of the beautiful mural on the East wall. Wendy Jane Bantam, a local mural artist, created the mural at the store’s grand opening in 1998.
The mural project began when the current Retail Director approached Bantam to create an art piece for the grand opening of the Vine Street location. Bantam was given the prompt, “Believe in the Power of Work”.
Bantam had a personal connection to believe in the power of work. Her mother, a single parent with two kids, taught her the value of work ethic from a young age.
Bantam explained, “She always taught, ‘You need to go to college, but I won’t be able to help you go to college so you need to start working now.’ I got a paper route which I had from the time I was 10 ‘til I was 17. She introduced me to a stock broker when I was 10 to invest my money. I was ten years old so I invested in Hersheys and Smuckers. Then, when I was 14 and 15, I was able to get other jobs around town so I started working all of the time.”
Bantam presented the Retail Director with three different paintings to choose from based on the prompt and what inspired her as an artist. Bantam was in her early 20’s and this would be the biggest project she had completed to date.
She said, “I was painting houses at the time and I always loved nature. I always liked the idea of little roads going off into the distance..they suggest happy possibilities. You never know what’s around the corner. The imagery from the mural came from open ideas like that.”
After the Retail Director chose her favorite piece from the three sketches, Bantam set out to transfer the mural from paper onto the wall. Goodwill set up scaffolding to allow Bantam to safely paint from a height. Bantam utilized a projector to ensure the letters were even and created the rest of the piece free hand.
The art piece that has now colored the East wall at the Vine Street Goodwill for over 20 years is painted with houses and roads, with half the scene lit and half dark.
Representing morning and evening. Bantam titled the piece, “Meaningful Employment: The Difference Between Night and Day.”
Since that time, her art work has become prominent throughout Lincoln from the “Two Elephants and the Kingfisher Near the Lotus Blossom Sea” mural on 27th and T to the mural she created for Lincoln Public Schools. You can visit her work at Kiechel Gallery where she recently had a solo painting exhibition appropriately titled,”Birds and Superheroes”.
With COVID-19 shifting the day to day routines of many people’s lives, Bantam hopes to create unity with a mural about community and friendship. She has partnered with Girls Inc. of Lincoln to hear stories from students. This mural is based on the stories told.
She stated, “This year, teaching artists had many wonderful projects planned with youth in Lincoln and surrounding communities. However, in the pandemic, all programs abruptly ended. There was no longer funding, and we couldn’t seem to go forward. Regardless, it seemed more important than ever to continue forward, by any means possible, to create positive experiences for youth. I would not be able to do it alone. The best projects have been large scale public projects where everyone has a part.”
Bantam feels strongly that the community needs art now more than ever.
She said, “People are getting down; and that’s just such a small word for the hopelessness people are feeling right now. When they can come together and they can work on a project together it’s actually connecting people and giving them a sense of ownership of their communities. The actual process of working together has a healing effect, as does the art itself. People get to see they are a part of a bigger picture and it’s empowering.”
To support the Community Mural Project, visit Wendy’s GoFundMe here: https://gf.me/u/ycznj5
To stay up to date with her projects, visit her facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/WendyJaneBantam/ and her website here https://wendybantam.com/