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A unique, one-of-a-kind mural of the city of Mesa was recently donated to the A New Leaf foundation on behalf of the Lakeview Trails Ward, Highland East Stake. Even more unique, though, is the story of how it came to be.
Alyson Ryan never intended to do this herself. She was responsible for choosing a service project for her ward and found the venture listed on JustServe.org. Knowing there were several other accomplished artists in her ward, she imagined she would just be the facilitator, not the painter. But one by one, each person she’d envisioned creating it fell through. The project stared at her for several months before she realized it would be her project.
“During this time, I was actually recovering from the devastating circumstance of having Epstein Barr and Lyme disease,” says Alyson, “so I was limited on the actual time I could stand on my feet, as I was recovering. The emotional challenge of feeling worthless as a person who couldn’t do anything was a battle I often faced, so finding ways to serve from my home was actually a huge blessing. On days that I felt motivated to paint, I could lie down, then stand and paint for a few minutes and then be able to lie down again.”
The mural’s design (which she created, with the help of her husband, William) is a celebration of the city of Mesa and an attempt to capture the city’s past, present and future with the special prominence of La Mesita, a shelter operated by A New Leaf.
“I actually have a hard time even calling myself an artist; I grew up in very artistic family, but always felt like the odd duck because I couldn’t do as well,” says Alyson. “Then, as an adult, I wanted larger pictures in my home, and, to be cost effective, I’d dabbled a little with some mural work.”
“We were so happy to receive the mural,” says Bridget Talty, Development Coordinator for A New Leaf’s philanthropy department. “I’d asked Alyson to create something that incorporated the community around La Mesita, since the community really supports us and this is the neighborhood that our families live in. She took the ball, ran with it, and created an amazing mural.”
“This experience of painting the mural was powerful for me; the opportunity to serve was more beneficial for me than for those I was trying to serve,” says Alyson. “We may not all be artists in the traditional sense of the word, but we are creators, with gifts and talents that only we possess, and when we share our light to create smiles and joy in others, in some way, we make the world better no matter how great or small that impact is. The only important part is that we choose to believe in ourselves and try.”