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story.lead_photo.caption - Photo by Rusty Hubbard

— The children’s area in Fellowship Bible Church in Conway is a zoo. Members and guests should be aware that it’s turning into a circus, too.

The walls, the walls — not the energetic kids.

Children’s Pastor Andy Patterson started the whole concept, explained Alicia Gough, a member of the church and its Creative Design Team.

Patterson said the idea to put murals on the walls came from a children’s ministry leadership team, organized last summer to “come up with what we believe, why we believe it and what we hope to accomplish,” as well as “core values.”

“What we landed on was excellence,” Patterson said, using a C.S. Lewis quote: “Let choirs sing well or not at all.”

“We decided that excellence would be our mantra for the ministry,” he said.

That included the walls, which were lined with photographs of children in the church.

“The hallways were in desperate need of updating — kids who were 3 were now in high school,” Patterson explained. “Our hallways are kind of our front door — that’s really the first thing people see when they walk through the doors.”

He first pulled in Gough and church member Heather Mainord, a Conway artist whose work is featured in Arkansas galleries.

“It really started to snowball, and we came up with the Creative Design Team, led by Heather, that did an amazing job of kind of casting the vision for what the hall could look like,” Patterson said.

The team, which also includes Kanda Brenner, Brooklyn Morgan, Trish Palmer, Vanessa Simmons and Jenna Warren, started painting in January, he said.

“They completely transformed that hallway,” Patterson said. “It’s amazingly breathtaking.”

The nursery and toddler area has a zoo theme that is almost completed, which Mainord described as “fun and loose.”

“I went around and took pictures of Conway, and I sketched,” Mainord said, and used those as buildings in the scenes. There’s old Conway, downtown — a view looking south on Front Street to St. Joseph Catholic Church — and The Village at Hendrix.

The team met at a restaurant in The Village at Hendrix, which Patterson laughed about and pointed out on the mural.

“One of my favorite things is that it’s Conway,” Patterson said, “which people don’t even realize until they start looking at it,” he said.

Patterson isn’t part of the team —“no, nooo,’’ he said with a laugh, but he did admit to being the “roller guy” who put the neutral color on the walls prior to the women working their magic.

“Creative Design Team was such the right name,” he said.

Mainord said Gough did red-and-white harlequin shapes on the wall. “It’s beautiful,” she said.

Gough brushed off any praise and said Mainord is her inspiration.

“I don’t consider myself a real artist; I do whatever she tells me to do,” Gough said. “She’s my major mentor for what I think is wonderful art.”

Gough protests too much. She has her own business, Color Design Consulting, primarily helping clients in remodeling or new construction pick tile and wall colors, fixtures — “putting things together.” She has done faux-finishing for years, too.

Mainord was chosen to do Toad Suck Daze’s 30th anniversary painting, which was made into limited-edition prints. Although she started in watercolors, Mainord primarily uses oils these days.

When the zoo mural is finished, church member Todd Robinson will create a metal arch with the word Zoo on it to echo the image in the mural.

“That’s actually where our electronic check-in will be,” Patterson said.

When that wing is completed, the women will take their paint and start on a circus/big-top theme for the preschoolers’ and kindergartners’ hallway.

“We want to make it a little more interactive,” Gough said, by incorporating 3-D elements like jugglers’ balls and a Ferris wheel that children can spin.

Gough said it’s been fun to watch members come down the hall and get excited about the progress of the painting.

“What I’ve enjoyed about this process — it’s like life. It’s been a journey, so it’s evolved into something much better than we ever thought it would be,” she said.

And sometimes life is a circus.

Print Headline: Zoo theme enlivens church hallways

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