CONWAY, Ark. (November 9, 2021) — An
artist’s recent 13-day residence in Conway yielded brighter surroundings on a
grand scale for those living and working at a state residential care facility
near the Hendrix College campus.
Emily Mente, a 2014 graduate of Hendrix
and artist behind the Austin, Texas-based Studio
Mente, arrived in Conway
at the beginning of October to bring a delayed project to life at Conway Human
Development Center (CHDC).
The three-panel mural at CHDC had
originally been scheduled for completion as a 2020 Hendrix Summer Programs
offering, but the coronavirus pandemic interfered. CHDC’s desire for the mural
outlasted that roadblock, though, so the center and its volunteer council
reached back out to Mente in 2021 to push the project forward.
CHDC staff did the power washing and priming
of the surface and prepared the teal background before Mente’s arrival,
enabling her to make the most of the 13 days, including the ability to recover
the downtime created by a couple of rain systems that came through the area.
CHDC also provided Mente with on-site housing during the project.
“We are overjoyed with the end result,”
said CHDC Superintendent Sarah Murphy. “The mural, which is above CHDC’s ‘snack
shack’ and below our chapel, has really brightened things up in the central
part of our campus! We have heard so many positive remarks from our staff and
many residents have shown their approval by gazing up and smiling as they pass
The seven-foot-tall triptych covers nearly
800 square-feet and required Mente to spend hours each day on scaffolding.
“It turned out to be a good thing that the
original timing didn’t work out, because the project was more ambitious than I
had anticipated,” Mente said. “I’m really glad to have had Hendrix students
involved for that reason.” Mente looks forward to using what she learned to
create another project that can more easily engage high school students for a
summer session in the future.
Mente also spent time across the
interstate at Hendrix during her time in Conway, speaking with senior art
majors and a beginning painting class about her full-time work as an artist.
Three of those artists—Adaja Cooper ’23, Michaela Thaibinh ’23, and Jalache
Davis ’23—joined Mente on the scaffolding at CHDC for portions of the project.
“Emily was so sweet to work with and learn
from,” said Thaibinh, who spent two days working alongside Mente. “I learned a
lot about the process of making murals, from start to finish. We talked about
her experience as a working artist, and this gave me lots of ideas,
suggestions, and insight about making art as a living.”
Funding for the mural came from the CHDC Volunteer
Council, a nonprofit dedicated to meeting long-term needs of CHDC residents in
addition to what the state budget covers. Their projects seek to improve
overall quality of life for the residents and to increase community awareness
of the needs and abilities of individuals who live at CHDC.
“The council includes a lot of relatives
of the residents, and they are so dedicated to providing for not just their
physical needs, but also things that brighten up their surroundings, like this
mural does,” Mente said. “It’s visible from several other buildings on the CHDC
campus, so even if a resident can’t go outside, they can still enjoy it.”
In the couple of months preceding her
visit, Mente collaborated with members of the volunteer council to choose paint
colors and refine the mural design. She worked to include native and
native-inspired flowers in the designs, which also include butterflies and
“This was such a good experience for us,”
said volunteer council member Jan Fortney. “Emily’s enthusiasm about the
project equaled our excitement. The mural is just perfect, and I’ve heard many
positive comments about how it makes everyone’s day better just walking past it.”
Janice Hanlon, another volunteer council
member, agreed that the work by Mente and the Hendrix students brightened up
the CHDC campus. “I look forward to pointing out the flowers, rainbow, and
butterflies to my son, Andy,” she said.
Volunteer council member Deborah Rainwater
said the best part about the mural’s completion was seeing the reaction of her son
Kirk, a 20-year-old CHDC resident who is non-verbal and autistic. “Kirk looked
up at the mural and smiled so big,” Rainwater said. “It was so precious to see
that it made him so happy.”
See more photos of the CHDC mural project,
taken October 8, 2021
About Hendrix College
A private liberal arts college in Conway,
Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the
country’s leading liberal arts institutions and is featured in Colleges
That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges.
Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix
as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876,
Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To
learn more, visit www.hendrix.edu.