WILMINGTON — On Sunday afternoon half a dozen kids gathered outside of the Wilmington Youth Center to paint as many leaf-shaped pieces of plywood they could before it started to rain.
Eventually the leaves will be displayed in the lower tunnel of the Whiteface Mountain lodge, a project funded by the Lake Placid/ Wilmington Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition (CYC).
“This is a continuation of our effort to say that kids are important,” said Naj Wikoff, a local artist who is leading the project. “This underscores the importance of young people in the community.”
Last spring CYC continued its ongoing “I Matter Campaign,” hanging posters painted by local students in public areas throughout Lake Placid and Wilmington.
“This is essentially a continuation of that,” Wikoff said. “Our goal is to bring attention to the fact that kids are such an important part of community life.”
Bridget Hinman, marketing director for Whiteface Mountain, said she was “exited about the project and can’t wait to see it take shape.”
“There was a lot of talk about where the mural would go and eventually we decided that the lower tunnel entrance was the perfect spot,” she said. “It’s really kind of drab and this will bring it to life.”
The leaves will be hung in a way so they appear to be tumbling through the tunnel, according to Wikoff, representing the transition from spring to fall leaves, with snowflakes at one end.
“That whole idea was planned out by the kids, which is truly remarkable,” Wikoff said. “This project really gives them something to work toward ... it helps them tap into their creativity.”
All told, Wikoff said the goal is to have at least 300 leaves hanging in the tunnel.
“But we can always add more,” he said. “We’ll probably install them in September, so we’re trying to get all the leaves done this month.”
Colden Lawrence, of Wilmington, was busy working on a vibrant green leaf, when he painted a final brush stroke and exclaimed: “Done. Another masterpiece.”
“I’ve done about 10 today already,” Mayson said, covered in paint. “It’s really fun.”
The project follows up a mural on the side of the Wilmington Youth Center, painted by the youth group last year. Wikoff said the initial plan was to do another mural on the other side of the building this summer, but Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston suggested contacting Whiteface.
“We knew there was funding out there, and we knew about Naj and his capabilities, so we got involved,” Preston said. “What’s so neat about this is that these kids are creating something that literally thousands and thousands of people are going to see. Plus, we all know that the Whiteface lodge has got to be one of the ugliest buildings in the North Country, so everyone benefits all the way around.”
As rain clouds began making their way over Whiteface and toward Wilmington, Mike Smith dropped by to pick up his two sons Hayden and Mayson. He said the boys had been talking about the project non-stop at home.
“They love it and I’m really proud of them,” he said. “I think it’s great how much exposure this (project) is going to get. Hang all the leaves down at Whiteface and all of a sudden my kids are famous.”
Colden Lawrence works on a masterpiece plywood leaf that will appear along with 300 others at Whiteface Mountain ski lodge, a project led by the Lake Placid/Wilmington Connecting Youth and Communities.
Photo/Eric Voorhis/Lake Placid News