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Our History

Chapel Mural Provides Challenges
and Blessings for Artist

Judy Smith, a local Whitney artist who was commissioned to paint the mural for the narthex of the chapel, remembers the time with nostalgia. The whole experience was a series of challenges and blessings for Judy. She says one blessing is that she got to witness on a daily basis the incredibly close and efficient organization of all the volunteers who worked in committees to accomplish the monumental task of the chapel construction. “I was so moved, since that is the way a church really should work,” she explains.

Two members of the Interior Design Committee, Maura Collins and Nancy McGinnis, were instrumental in acquiring a mural for the special location above the entry doors to the sanctuary. George and Maura Collins were dining one evening at Frenke’s Restaurant in Hillsboro when Maura was particularly drawn to a large panoramic mural of a Mexican fiesta on a village square, containing a chapel and a lot of people. Maura got the name of the artist from the restaurant owners and brought it to her committee members. Nancy, who was thrilled to see the name of a budding new artist from Whitney whom she already knew, put the committee in touch with Judy Smith.

Smith submitted a small completed painting of the Last Supper to the Board of Trustees as her proposal for the work, accompanied by a list of specs. The choice of subject and quality of the painting, along with the professionalism of her proposal, sealed the deal. Maura decided to donate the mural as her personal gift to the Chapel. Unbeknownst to the artist, the Last Supper was a favorite painting of Linda Martin, deceased wife of Pastor Maurice Martin, so it was decided that Smith’s mural would be a fitting tribute to Martin. Judy Smith considers her choice of subject to have been divine intervention, another in the string of blessings that came to her during the project.

The first major challenge occurred for Smith when she realized she would have to work on scaffolding, not a welcome thought for a person afraid of heights. The three large murals she had previously painted had been done in pieces, then assembled to be hung on a wall. This one would have to be painted directly on the wall, hence from scaffolding.

Another problem the artist encountered was that she could not use a projector to cast the image on the wall (and trace the design from the projection). Since the narthex of the church is extremely narrow, and the selected space very high, it created a combination that would skew the proportions unreasonably. So Judy’s next blessings came in the form of angels, the carpenters on the job.

The carpenters threw plumb lines at intermittent intervals, and Judy drew a grid from the plumb lines in order to get the proper proportions for her painting. When they learned that Judy was afraid of working from scaffolding, her carpenter angels provided their hydraulic lift for her use while working in the evenings. “If they had seen my driving record, they might have changed their minds!”

Smith’s next daunting challenge came when she got to the face of Christ. “So I stopped and said a prayer, then just started right in.” One afternoon soon afterwards, Judy arrived at the chapel and was greeted by a volunteer member cleaning grout off the floor tiles. He turned to her and said, “You should see your painting at sunrise when the rays of the sun come right through the window and illuminate the face of Christ!” Another blessing she remembers to this day.

Church members have commented on how quickly Judy worked, completing the enormous painting in only a week. “I’m obsessive, and once I start on an art project, nothing else exists; it comes through me, not from me. I’m just the instrument.”

Smith says she hasn’t done any other murals since, but she would like to. She did get a number of art students from White Bluff as a result of her mural. But her greatest blessings, her “little miracles,” occurred while on the job.