Local artists transform DCF New Haven office with colorful murals

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The plain white walls of the visiting rooms of New Haven Department of Child and Family Services To some it might have looked like the sterile waiting rooms of a doctor’s office, but Megan Pearson, Erin Johnston and their team of local artists saw the white edges of a blank canvas.

One such practical way came to light this year when the DCF New Haven office called Fostering Family Hope and asked for help.

The nonprofit previously redecorated visitation rooms at six incarceration centers and the DCF office in Middletown, but the New Haven office was the first location where wall painting was approved.

Megan Pearson and Erin Johnston, both foster parents since 2015, are the two women behind Fostering Family Hope, a registered nonprofit that seeks to “help foster children in practical ways”.

Julie Powell of Rockland Studios

“We wanted to show kids that they can be anything and do anything, that their circumstances don’t dictate their future — and so can their families,” Johnston said. “So it was very important for us to find local artists who would be willing to come, and we’re really happy to hear who came and helped.”

Four artists donated their time and energy to this project. Liz Egan paint the baby’s room with brightly colored flowers. Demeree Douglas took over both toddler rooms with vibrant illustrations of families playing together. jesse wolf covered the art/creation room with whimsical animals holding balloons. Candyce John, known in the art world as “Marsh”, painted teenager’s room with motivational post-its and chalkboard wall for protests. The project started in October and ended in December.

“They were so happy to do it,” Johnston said. “They just wanted to come in and transform those rooms.”

“For the kids,” Pearson added.


Marsh is the founder of Marshun Art in New Haven. She is a tattoo artist and painter and she offers classes for adults and children.
Pearson and Johnston contacted Marsh through his website. She said she was there and then called on Wolf and Douglas to help her.

Marsh’s grandmother had adopted children, so she grew up sharing her family with others.

“[My grandmother] was just a type of woman — and so was my mom — they were just the type of people who constantly gave back to the community,” Marsh said. “So I always like to make sure that with the talents I’ve been blessed with, I achieve that.”

She spent two and a half weeks painting the mural in New Haven. Originally, she planned to do just one wall, but as her vision grew, so did the artwork she created.

Right next to the entrance, Marsh painted a buffer symbol to represent that in every phase of life, humans are always buffering, charging and growing. Inside the room she painted flowers and a huge galaxy.

Local artist Candyce John, also known as "Marsh," volunteered his time to paint the teenage room of the New Haven Department of Child and Family Services.  This mural is a chalkboard wall where children can write and share their goals and dreams.

Local artist Candyce John, also known as “Marsh”, volunteered her time to paint the New Haven Department of Child and Family Services’ teen bedroom. This mural is a chalkboard wall where children can write and share their goals and dreams.

Julie Powell of Rockland Studios

“I created the galaxy because often as a kid myself, I remember feeling out of place. Like a little bit out of this world,” Marsh said. call Marsh because I’m a Martian, I’m an alien My point of view is a bit out of this world Most of my perspectives are weird.

On another wall, there are post-it notes with encouraging messages reminding teenagers “in a world where you can be anything, be yourself.” There’s also a soft black chalk wall with a search bar that says “manifestations” for kids to write their dreams on and share with others.

Local artist Candyce John, also known as "Marsh," volunteered his time to paint the teenage room of the New Haven Department of Child and Family Services.  These post-it notes are intended to remind children to never imitate others and to always be themselves.

Local artist Candyce John, also known as “Marsh”, volunteered her time to paint the New Haven Department of Child and Family Services’ teen bedroom. These post-it notes are intended to remind children to never imitate others and to always be themselves.

Julie Powell of Rockland Studios

“I know as a teenager you’re in this really weird place where you’re like, ‘I know things and I can do things for me’, but you’re also always in a place of learning and exploration,” Marsh said. . “So I want to convey all of that in the play.”

Pearson and Johnston said they were inspired by the desire of the community — and especially these four artists — to help foster children and their birth families have a peaceful place where they can connect.

Other cities have also taken notice of the program. Fostering Family Hope have already been asked to revamp other DCF Visitor Centers in Meriden and Norwich, and they are currently looking for local artists in both towns.

Pearson and Johnston have big dreams for Fostering Family Hope. The goal is to open a brick-and-mortar “welcome closet” where foster children can actually pick up clothes, shoes and other essentials.

“We want children in care to have self-esteem and believe that they deserve everything everyone else is doing,” Pearson said. “[We want to tell biological families, we know you] work hard to get your kids back and you deserve it and they are your kids… our number one priority is reunification, of course when it’s safe and appropriate, but we want these families to know they are loved too.

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