CU art student Whitley Howlett paints mural in assisted living facility in Louisville, Ky.

CU art student Whitley Howlett paints mural in assisted living facility in Louisville, Ky.
CU art student and artist Whitley Howlett shows her mural in the Magnolia Springs East Senior Lifestyle Community.

By Alexandria Swanger, communications assistant, Office of University Communications

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – The residents of Louisville’s Magnolia Springs East Senior Lifestyle Community will now be able to enjoy sunshine even on a cloudy day.

Over the course of her 2019 summer break, Campbellsville University sophomore Whitley Howlett has been working on a mural inside the dining room of the senior lifestyle center to bring new life to a room that residents use every day.

CU art student Whitley Howlett paints mural in assisted living facility in Louisville, Ky. 5
The mural painted in the newly renovated dining room at Magnolia Springs East Senior Lifestyle Community. The mural was painted by CU student Whitley Howlett over the summer.

Howlett is studying graphic design through the Campbellsville University Art and Design Department. After recently receiving a scholarship from Magnolia Springs, she met Nancy Orr-Rainey, the executive director of Magnolia Springs East. It was then that she was able to show her examples of her artwork.

Howlett was first contacted about the job opportunity by her father, Chad Howlett, who works at Magnolia Springs East as the director of plant operations who knew they were in need of a mural. Orr-Rainey and Alex Gamboa, the director of Memory Way at Magnolia Springs East, first contacted Howlett requesting that she only paint the doors that led to Memory Way, the memory care facility in Magnolia Springs.

Orr-Rainey and Gamboa later decided to have Howlett only touch up the pre-existing mural on the doors and create an entirely new mural in their recently renovated dining room. They wanted something peaceful for the residents to look at, so they settled on the idea of a farm landscape.

The farm landscape not only provided a serene scene for the residents to look at daily, but it also referenced the vast farmlands of Kentucky that Magnolia Springs is built on.

Orr-Rainey suggested cows be included along with the farm landscape theme. Howlett also wanted to put several animals throughout the piece so that residents could find and enjoy them while searching through the mural. The mural has three cows, one bird and two silhouettes of horses in the distance.

Howlett said she chose to paint a stone wall barrier around the base of the mural to “create the illusion of a vast space without the ability to access it, so it wouldn’t confuse the residents.”

CU art student Whitley Howlett paints mural in assisted living facility in Louisville, Ky. 6
Vines are painted around the exit door to the garden

“I was also unsure of what the residents would think of me but all of them were very interested in what I was doing throughout the process,” Howlett said.

“One woman told me over and over, ‘God bless you for doing this.’ They were in constant amazement at how long the process took. Every day I painted I got questions about what I was putting in this space or what that orange blob was going to be.

“My dad said that one resident who used to be an artist, Betty Stone, had tears in her eyes when she saw it finished. It absolutely thrills me that they all love it so much. Even if they may not remember me, they will always be able to see what I have created and enjoy it every day. That is all I can want as an artist,” Howlett said.

She also worked to merge different areas of the facility by adding other subtle touches to the mural.

“The door surrounded by the mural leads to an outdoor garden, which inspired me to add vines and flowers throughout the mural to tie both spaces together,” she said.

Howlett admitted that one of the biggest difficulties was figuring out how to make such a large-scale piece and still keep it varied and interesting. She had to think of how each section would look and how it would work both on its own and together as one cohesive piece.

“Every step of the mural was a new challenge and a new discovery of my skills as an artist. Thankfully I had people along the way to help guide me and give much needed advice. That is one beautiful part of the artistic community. Artists are almost always willing to help other artists succeed in whatever way they can.”

During the painting process and after long hours of being held up by ladders, she also discovered something else as an artist – she is afraid of heights.

Howlett estimates that she spent roughly 36 hours on the mural this summer. She expressed that it was the “best first mural” she could have asked for and expressed gratitude toward those at Magnolia Springs East who allowed her to have the opportunity. She hopes that this is just the beginning of her mural painting days.

“I’m honored to have this opportunity to brighten the day of the residents in Memory Way with my art. It is the greatest honor to bless other people with what God has blessed me with as an artist. I hope this is the first out of many murals that I can do for others.”

Howlett is from Louisville and hopes to become an illustrator or graphic designer once she graduates.

Magnolia Springs East is one out of two senior lifestyle communities in Louisville, Ky. and is located on 13600 LaGrange Road, Louisville, KY 40245.

Campbellsville University is a widely-acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 12,000 students offering over 100 programs of study including Ph.D., master, baccalaureate, associate, pre-professional and certification programs. The university has Kentucky based off-campus centers in Louisville, Harrodsburg, Somerset, Hodgenville and Liberty with instructional sites in Elizabethtown, Owensboro and Summersville. Out-of-state centers include two in California at Los Angeles and Lathrop, located in the San Francisco Bay region.  The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.

Campbellsville University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award certificates, associate, baccalaureate, masters and doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the status of Campbellsville University.

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