Mural is a learning experience

DeWayne Bartels
Metamora High School freshman Haley Gray, 14, is tackling the 19-foot-by-9- foot exterior wall at Global Village in Peoria Heights to create a mural that reflects the fair trade story of the business.

At 14 Haley Gray has a lot on her plate — the first days of enriched classes at Metamora Township High School, cross country practice and, on Sundays, painting a mural on a 19-foot-by-9-foot wall.

Global Village, a store in Peoria Heights, commissioned Gray to paint a mural on an outside wall to reflect the store’s fair trade philosophy.

Fair trade is defined as a social movement and market-based approach aimed at helping producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Gray got the job without even trying and with the help of her grandmother.

“In eighth grade we did an English project on charities and social movements. My partner and I decided to do ours on fair trade,” Gray said.

As part of the project Gray painted a poster.

“When we went to Global Village to get some fair trade coffee my grandma showed my poster to the people at Global Village. They were looking for someone to paint a mural. I got the job,” Gray said.  

She has been drawing for years and has taken art classes at the Sun Foundation and studied under noted Peoria artist Preston Jackson. Art runs in her family.

“Both of my great-grandma’s were artists. One was a painter. The other was a sculptor. My mother is an art director and my dad is a photographer,” Gray said.

Even before she began working on the fair trade project or got the commission to do the mural, Gray said she was interested in social causes and other cultures.

“Other cultures intrigue me. My favorite channel is the Travel Channel,” she said. “Other countries interest me. I hope to travel to many of them in my lifetime.”  

Work began on the mural in mid-August. She has been working about six hours every Sunday.

“I hope to be done in mid-September,” Gray said.

Gray’s design incorporates international produce being picked by a woman representing India, a boy from Asia and an African man.  

The backdrop is a tree that ties in the global connections of all continents.  

Gray said she chose this design to show all humanity picks from the same tree.  

“This design has a story,” Gray said. “The tree signifies half the earth. The people picking the fruit shows we are all connected to the earth.”

Coming up with the design was the easy part. Painting her first mural has come with challenges.

“Since it’s my first mural, it’s fun. It’s definitely something new to me,” Gray said.

“But, it’s also a challenge. I work on scaffolding. I’m working in front of my family. I usually work alone. I’m dealing with weather and heat. The paint dries very quickly. But, it’s better than working in the snow.”

This has also been a learning experience for Gray. She sought out professional advice about the paint to use and the sealant that will protect the design from the weather.

“I am very grateful to get to do something on this big a scale,” Gray said. “Maybe it will make people think.”