GREENSBORO — Gina Elizabeth Franco looked up and along the length of the brick canvas and smiled.
“If you can create conversation, it serves its purpose,” she said.
Franco had just finished painting a mural of doors and a large key with the words “Housing is a Human Right” on a building that serves as a day center for those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless: the Interactive Resource Center.
Franco was hired, based on the graffitilike style to her work, to take the side of the sprawling brick building facing steady traffic and along the future path of the Downtown Greenway — a prominent canvas — and spread the IRC’s message.
“It looks like hope,” said Michelle Kennedy, the organization’s executive director. “We could have just as easily painted a wall of despair, but that’s not what we believe this building represents.”
As Kennedy spoke, counselors with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs arrived for appointments, a nonprofit group passed out groceries, and clients lined up at the makeshift postal station to pick up mail.
And laughter filled the air.
To Kennedy, the painting also represents a broader conversation of opening doors not only of a physical home but to affordable wages, health care and even dreams.
Her agency applied for and received an Action Greensboro “spark grant,” which supports miniprojects that have the potential to create buzz and community involvement.
“It’s just an exciting time around here and we are grateful that Action Greensboro sees that,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said she was hoping to use one of the many artists who come to the day center to paint the mural.
“We have really good artists who are guests here, but they don’t have health insurance and I would never put them on that lift,” she said about the hydraulic machine that Franco used to scale the wall.
The artwork is part of a larger renovation of the building. The agency has made indoor improvements in phases. This is the first project for the building’s exterior.
After discussions with clients, volunteers and others of what the mural should look like, Franco got on a lift with rollers and cans of paint.
Before being selected for the project, Franco had never heard about the IRC. Now, she can’t stop talking about the place.
“I had been homeless, but that had been a long time ago,” explained Franco, who said her parents were drug addicts when she was growing up. “This was very rewarding to me.”
Hearing that made Kennedy smile.
“It was just a good fit all around,” she said.
The IRC mural will be one of Franco’s most prominently displayed pieces of art around the city.
“For somebody to ride by and know it’s mine,” Franco said, “you can’t beat that feeling.”