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Renovations completed to Cavanagh Recreation Center in Petaluma

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The final piece of a two-year project to overhaul Petaluma’s Cavanagh Recreation Center was put into place over the weekend, when a group of teenagers transformed the building’s largest wall into a two-story mural.

The elaborate floral design was the culmination of months of planning between Daily Acts, St. Vincent de Paul High School’s Art Angels club and Mentor Me Petaluma, a nonprofit that manages the building.

The mural sets California golden poppies and a mix of succulents, lavender, roses and strawberry plants against a backdrop of green and blue. At the bottom, growing from the earth, is the inspirational quote ­— “Be the change you wish to see in the world” — which the Art Angels have taken as their motto.

“It’s right by a garden, and so I wanted to connect earth and the things that support us with the growth of the human spirit and body,” said Marla Pederson, an art teacher with Art Angels. “I wanted something that would be peaceful and inspiring and kind of ground us to our environments and show how we’re all connected.”

That aligned with the vision for the space by Deb Dalton, executive director of Mentor Me, a 15-year-old nonprofit that helps at-risk youths succeed in school and in life by providing them with one-on-one, long-term adult mentors.

“It’s important for the community to perceive that organizations working with at-risk youth also are clean, bright and positive,” she said. “It’s really important that the aesthetics of these places reflect the work that we’re doing.”

The wall is the building’s largest and forms the exterior of the gym. Dalton said it was an “eyesore” before the mural.

“There’s no color, no plantings. It’s just a big flat brown wall with a weedy sidewalk in front,” she said.

Kat Pitre, a 17-year-old senior at the school who has been an Art Angels member since her freshman year, spent close to three months refining Pederson’s initial idea for the design.

“Once we knew which plants we wanted to use, it was a process of drawing them out in different styles,” said Pitre, who takes inspiration from tattoo and music industry art. “We sketched them out in pencil, and then I went in and inked it.”

All of the materials were donated at no cost to the city — which technically owns the building — or Mentor Me, which is charged with taking care of the building in exchange for not paying rent. The paint, dropcloths and even the power washing to the wall were all provided by Jerry Thompson, a retired Petaluma painter.

Built in 1958 as the Petaluma Boys Club, the Cavanagh Center was taken over by Mentor Me in 2014.

“There were 17 broken windows, there was old carpet, old tiles, lots and lots of weird couches, about 20 different colors of paint everywhere. It just needed a lot of TLC,” Dalton said. “It was a long process, and I think that it really is our gift to the community.”

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or christi.warren@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren.

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