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SHA mural captures concept of family literacy
For Ludlow artist Rachel Saloio, the mural-sized painting ‘Community’ is nothing short of a labor of love.
Saloio was commissioned by the Springfield Housing Authority this summer to paint a four-by-eight feet work of art to illustrate Talk/Read/Succeed!, the collaborative, family-based literacy initiative that has made strides in boosting and retaining reading levels among children at two family developments.
Her work on the project, done in SHA’s break room on the fourth floor of the Executive Offices at 60 Congress St., spanned about a month, and included much input from staffers eager to watch the process, and be a part of it.
The end result is a colorful, dynamic rendition of people, place, and a concept.
“I want people to look at this and see that no matter who you are, or where you live, you have potential. You’re a good person,” Saloio said. “When you’re young, when you’re a child, you need to believe that.”
Saloio’s painting has been framed by Rick Mauran and is hanging in the fourth-floor conference room at SHA’s headquarters. It will be unveiled before the Board of Commissioners and guests on Tuesday Sept. 15 at 4 p.m.
The acrylic painting features the faces of four children – two boys and two girls – which dominate and quickly draw the eye. Above them is blue sky. To the left is a group of children sharing a book, with shelves of books behind them. To the right are two children examining nature, and below is a grandfather hugging his granddaughter.
At the bottom is a view of Sullivan Apartments, one of the T/R/S! housing developments, and a young figure climbing up a row of colorful books, raising his hands in triumph at the top. That part of the painting is intended to show the T/R/S! goal of helping children attain literacy by third grade.
There are also three short quotes, by Kofi Annan, Martin Luther King Jr., and this by Gandhi: “If we are to have real peace, we must begin with the children.”
Most of the people portrayed in the painting are or were SHA residents, and T/R/S! participants.
SHA Executive Director William H. Abrashkin, who facilitated the commission of the painting, said he believes it captures the spirit of the program, in its sixth year at Sullivan and Robinson Gardens Apartments, and their neighborhood schools, Boland and Dorman.
“She has captured the spirit and the hope we are fostering for the next generation,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”
At age 28, Saloio has been drawing and painting since she can remember.
“I’ve always been drawn to art, and I began drawing and painting as a child,” she said. “I began building that skill set in high school by taking some independent art classes at the Hartford Art School’s pre-college program.”
Saloio went on to study at the Art Institute in Boston, earning a bachelor of fine arts with a focus on fine arts and art history. Besides painting, she works with chalk, pastels and chalk ink.
She said that while much of her process is technical, there is always some mystery to her craft – and therein often lies the magic of her work.
“I like that no matter how much I plan what a piece will look like, a big part of that process is left up to fate. No matter how detailed a sketch can get, there comes a point when the work diverts from the original plan,” she said.
“Sometime it changes subtly, sometimes it changes drastically. While this can be very frustrating, it is in this change that the work becomes a little more genuine and alive.”
Saloio’s work is on display in many businesses in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut, including the Max Restaurant Group, Center Square East Grill in East Longmeadow, Whole Foods Market in Hadley, the Student Prince in Springfield, Keller Williams Realty, and more.
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