In the 2021 Holiday season Heartspace Art completed a Sensory Mural for clients with Special Needs
“We are so honored to have been chosen for this project. When I think about these kinds of projects and the people they are helping, I feel so grateful, like our art has purpose.” -Danielle Cleary, Founder of Heartspace Art
The Sensory Mural fills the entire room of 19 year old Brandon. Brandon is a strong and courageous young man who has overcome adversity in the form of mental and physical disabilities. The room mural was commissioned by Kimberly, Brandon’s mother and the founder of Sensory Towne; a Jacksonville based kid’s gym. The inspiration for the gym and the mural is Brandon’s evolving sensory needs.
According to Kimberly, Brandon and children of special needs function better when they receive
the right combination of sensory input. A sensory mural is a way to create an environment that
is best suited for his special needs.
Brandon’s room, more specifically his playroom, is a place where he can go to feel safe and free. The mural was designed with the intention of capturing Brandon’s favorite things and present them in a format that is larger than life. The central element of the Sensory Mural is a butterfly, each of its four wings represent a challenge that Brandon has overcome. On the right wing there are golden flowers representing childhood cancer and a blue jean pattern with a DNA strand representing a rare genetic disorder. On the left wing are miniature blue and white butterflies representing hydrocephalus and brightly colored puzzle pieces for autism. The rest of the room is filled with Brandon’s favorite activities and foods. When Kimberly saw the wall covered with giant versions of Brandon’s favorite foods, she laughingly said, “Brandon is going to try and take a bite out of that wall!”
Kimberly is a very passionate person and wanted the mural to be perfect for her son. She was involved in every element of the project and insisted upon the inclusion of some specific elements. One such element was faces, the room had three playing characters, one jumping over the word bounce, one playing in a pool, and one flying with the butterflies. It was important to Kimberly that these characters had recognizable features. Kimberly said with a tear in her eye, “Brandon will identify with these character’s faces. All of this is important, but this is very important.” In the community of people with special needs it is important for a person to feel like they have an identity, like they are an individual. People in this community work very hard, especially in being seen more deeply than their life’s condition. Giving the characters faces symbolizes this struggle and the way Kimberly has been an outspoken voice on Brandon’s behalf. Wouldn’t you know it, all of the characters looked a little bit like Brandon.
The room has a bonus! The closet and affirmational words were all painted in black light reactive paints. The paints cause certain elements of the painting to fluoresce under ultraviolet light and become brighter than the surrounding paint. This effect looks like elements of the painting becoming super vibrant and saturated. Brandon spends hours in the black light area at Sensory Towne. This addition gives Brandon the opportunity to have that sensory experience whenever he wants, at the flick of a switch. The closet even features a black light reactive cardinal that represents Brandon’s grandmother, who has visited the family even after passing, in the form of this red bird.
The project concludes with hugs, tears, photos, and Brandon’s first excited steps into his new world.
Grace Pulak – Painter
Dominique Donnell – Painter