Great Plains internship leads to creation of church mural


This artist rendering shows what a mural for the side of the Life Support Center at New Covenant United Methodist Church in Wichita will look life once the painting has been completed.


Like many other interns in the Great Plains Conference this summer, Briana Hutton is leaving her mark on the church where she served.

Her mark, however, is physically larger and more public.

An art major entering her sophomore year at Sterling College in Kansas this fall, Hutton has created a mural for the side of the Life Support Center at New Covenant United Methodist Church in downtown Wichita.

Hutton and the Rev. Cathy Holley, pastor of New Covenant, drove around the Delano neighborhood of Wichita, where the church has its storefront home, to get ideas for its mural.

“When we were driving around looking at murals, she really liked the geometrically designed ones,” Hutton said. “So I kind of chose that.”
Great Plains intern Briana Hutton poses next to the beginnings of a mural she designed for the Life Support Center at New Covenant United Methodist Church in downtown Wichita. Photo by David Burke

Holley, who admits she has no artistic talent, had considered a mural on the side of the building for years, she said. That was sparked after witnessing a man who had left the tavern on the other side of the church, talking on his cellphone, hanging up and wiping away tears.

“I thought, ‘We need something out here in this space to remind people that God is here,’” Holley said. “I knew nothing about painting murals or designing murals. I didn’t even know who to start a conversation with.”

The two worked together to use an adaptation of Joshua 1:9 – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go’’ – for the mural. With a gray background, a series of triangles decorates the mural, creating a lion’s head on the far right side.

Hutton’s internship ended at the end of July, and she left the mural unfinished, to become a project for the church.

“It’s outlined, every triangle has a number. You just have to know what number for what color,” Hutton said. “It’s paint-by-number. Anybody can paint it.

“I wanted it to be something that the whole church could do, not something the summer intern came in and painted and left,” she added.

Some church members have been skeptical about their abilities, Hutton said.

“Everybody comes, and they’re like, ‘I don’t know if I can paint anything,’” she said. “It’s hard, but you can do it because it’s God’s work.”

Even uncompleted, Holley and Hutton said the project already has made an impact in the neighborhood. One man drove by and offered use of a projector to help Hutton with the outline. A local company donated a scissor lift.

“Other people from the neighborhood have stopped. People from the bar have stopped by,” Holley said. “It’s had an impact on the whole neighborhood already.”

The project also has impacted the life of Hutton, a native of Scott City, Kansas, who suffers from severe arthritis throughout her body.

“It’s been really hard and taxing these few weeks,” Hutton said. “But for some reason, every time I get up on that scissor lift to work on the mural I’m fine.

“The pain goes away,” she added. “It’s a God thing.”

The project, and working this summer at New Covenant, have been “amazing,” she said.

“I’ve very much discerned my call” into ordained ministry, Hutton added.
Contact David Burke, communications coordinator, at
Bob Johnson and Kimberly Simms, founders of Let's Rock & Roll & Change the World, gives a T-shirt from the group to University of  ansas architecture professor Chad Kraus, as well as T-shirts for the members of his DesignBuild classes that are creating tiny houses for a Wichita project. Photo by David Burke


Tiny house program may start in Wichita with help from KU

The founders of a Wichita-based program to help the homeless have enlisted the assistance of a University of Kansas architecture professor in starting a tiny homes project.

Bob Johnson and Kimberly Simms, founders of Let’s Rock & Roll & Change the World, introduced Chad Kraus, associate professor of architecture at KU, at a gathering July 29 at New Covenant United Methodist Church in Wichita, whose Life Support Center is the organization’s home.

Kraus – who told the 100 people gathered at the church his father’s life story, including several years of being homeless late in his life – teaches the DesignBuild Studio at KU.

“How to build what they’ve designed,” he explained.

Kraus said the prototype would be built to fit on an 8 ½-by-20 foot trailer in Lawrence and then be hauled to Wichita.

Let’s Rock & Roll & Change the World used the church’s family night to announce its plans for the tiny home project, with a $30,000 goal that would provide 27 acres of land for 150 of the homes. The area, according to Johnson and Simms, would ideally include a garden, community center, on-site medical and social work personnel.

Kraus worked as a designer and architect with Shigeru Ban Architects, which worked as tirelessly creating affordable housing for the downtrodden as it did elaborate structures for corporations and municipalities, he said.
He said he hoped to duplicate the firm’s principles of human architecture, sensorial experience, environmental stewardship and blending the familiar with the extraordinary.

Johnson began his work with the homeless several years ago, beginning with efforts as simple as arriving at local parks with a loaf of bread and a pound of bologna.

“I know I couldn’t change the world,” he said, “but I could change one person.”

Johnson praised New Covenant UMC and its Life Support Center for its work with the homeless.

“They don’t just preach about what we’re supposed to do,” he said. “They live it.”

Simms helped found the Community Connections at the Life Support Center, located in the Delano neighborhood of Wichita. It, she said, is trying to help break the cycle of homelessness in the city.

“If we work together through God’s strength is us, I know we can change that cycle,” she said.

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