Murals brighten center Painting: A local artist is using her skills to create unique murals on the walls of the new Westminster Family Center.

November 18, 1996|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Sharks circle a brilliant coral reef and starships battle in deep space on the walls of Westminster's new family center -- thanks to local free-lance artist Nicole Maria Stanton.

"Her work is causing a lot of excitement in town and beyond," said Ronald J. Schroers, the city's supervisor of recreation. "Everybody loves it.

"It's just given this whole area of the building life. I'm making her tTC sign everything, so I can give tours when she's famous," he said. "I just think the word's getting out about her."

Westminster Family Center, a recreation facility, opened Sept. 3 in the old armory building on Longwell Avenue. Schroers said he had about $2,500 for decorating.

"With my budget, we decided to go with murals instead of paintings," Schroers said.

A tennis instructor mentioned that her sister paints murals, and Schroers asked her to bid on the project.

Stanton has been painting since, almost every day for about a month, at about $5 an hour, he said. Schroers had her paint the small signs outside and inside the building, because it was cheaper than having them done elsewhere.

Stanton, 24, lives with her parents in White Pine Acres and is a 1990 graduate of Westminster High School.

She reacted shyly to Schroers' enthusiasm, but said, "I am getting a lot more projects now.

"A number of people have contacted me for work," she said, noting that several people who use the center have asked her to paint murals in their homes.

Since graduating two years ago from Maryland Institute, College of Art, Stanton has worked as a free-lance artist. She does graphic design -- T-shirts and brochures -- and has painted murals for several karate studios and other sports facilities.

She has lived in Brazil, her mother's homeland, and had a job there recently painting Japanese figures and a landscape mural at a private home. Her father, part Choctaw, is a consultant for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and she helped to produce a video for tribes seeking assistance for public works projects.

But the family center is her biggest project in terms of the number of murals.

"I like painting, especially horses," she said, while working on a Main Street scene on a hallway wall.

Working from photographs, she has curved the familiar buildings of the streetscape into an unfurled Maryland flag.

Nearby, Star Wars/Star Trek-style spaceships zoom amid giant planets on the walls of the video-game playroom -- highlighted by fluorescent paint and illuminated by black light. The child care room features figures from older stories: Cinderella and Red Riding Hood and the wolf.

Across the hall in the pool room, a coral reef fills a wall: sharks, a ray and colorful fish swim and twist, while a malevolent moray eel peers from a crevice.

"Pool sharks, get it?" said Schroers with a laugh.

He noted that the city's idea for the room had been a decidedly pedestrian city seal.

"All her ideas, everything she's done, has turned to gold," he said.

At least two more murals are planned -- a basketball and an aerobics group -- for the walls of the newly painted gymnasium upstairs.

The city of Westminster may have other work for her, if it can keep her, Schroers said.

Stanton could soon have a wider audience: She is entering the national competition for the memorial at Little Bighorn, where Indian warriors defeated Gen. George Armstrong Custer. She is working on sketches that show a warrior in unison with nature.

"If she had to survive on what we pay her, she'd be a 'starving artist' for real. She is doing us a huge favor," Schroers said.

"She is just getting big, so we were lucky to get her."

Pub Date: 11/18/96

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