Image of mural at Shelter Alternatives office.

Art Mural at Shelter Alternatives Office

As part of our 35th anniversary, and our continuing commitment to arts and our community, we commissioned five local artists to complete a garden mural in our office hallway in 2023. Nikki Pynn coordinated the project, which consists of five windows that each look out on a garden scene. Painting alongside Pynn were Ava Howard, Hannah Howard, Katy Shepard and Michele Walter. Please read about our talented artists below!

Nikki Pynn, Project Coordinator

Portrait of Nikki Pynn, Project Coordinator

Though I’m known more for stained glass work, in the past 7 years I’ve had the fortune of being invited to paint public art works. It is a pleasure to be asked to coordinate painters to fulfill Ed Tuchler’s idea of five windows looking out onto a garden. The idea was to have different hands create scenes as interpreted by the individual artists. My intention was not to orchestrate but notice what would naturally “become” as we each worked, and that there would be a common thread that would flow organically.

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Nikki Pynn, Project Coordinator at work on the Shelter Alternatives mural

Ava Howard

Portrait of Ava Howard

Perhaps one of the greatest joys I experience most mornings is getting up before everyone else, sitting with a cup of coffee and my kitty Gracie purring in my lap. I sit in wonder, gazing from my patio or looking out my window at the splendor of nature that surrounds me. I’ve most recently taken great satisfaction in two flower beds I have planted at our new house in the country.

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Ava Howard at work on the Shelter Alternatives mural

Hannah Howard

Portrait of Hannah Howard

It has been so fun to do this mural for Shelter Alternatives. As a mom of three young children I was hesitant to take on this project, but they were so gracious with my schedule and encouraging in the process, I’m so glad I did. The team at Shelter Alternatives made me feel at home and not at all in the way even as I clogged their hallway.

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Hannah Howard at work on the Shelter Alternatives mural

Katy Shepard

Portrait of Katy Shepard

For my piece, I wanted to collect imagery from around Shelter Alternatives’ garden itself. In this abstracted work you will find a variety of flowers and other flora from around Shelter’s grounds. The abstraction of the work is drawn from an audio component. Having met Ed years ago at a swing dance (and then, of course, at contra dances and Blues night), I decided to create a playlist of swing and blues music to inspire the colors and strokes of the stylized backdrop.

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Katy Shepard at work on the Shelter Alternatives mural

Michele Walter

Portrait of Michele Walter

I am incredibly grateful to be a part of this amazing project. Ed Tuchler and the entire staff at Shelter Alternatives have been so supportive and patient as we artists did our work in the middle of their busy hallway! Although we all got to choose our own unique design and vision for the garden theme, I had a strong desire to paint the Hahn Garden because it’s such an icon of Blacksburg. I have spent many hours there admiring the plants, flowers, and wildlife there.

Full artist statement

Michele Walter at work on the Shelter Alternatives mural