Muralizing Your Pool. Part 1

Clients don’t need to feel enclosed in your pool enclosure. This “Undersea Fantasy” makes the pool area as large as the imagination.

If your pool area has been looking drab and needs updating, but you lack the finances to renovate, consider what the managers did at the Wakefield Recreation Center in Annandale, Va. They commissioned a mural that transformed their pool-area walls into a colorful, vivid undersea fantasy world, full of dolphins, fish, coral, killer whales, giant sea turtles and the ruins of Atlantis. The mural also served to engage the center’s members in the project and, ultimately, has helped to retain them.

Why paint a mural?

About 1,000 paying patrons keep the pool at Wakefield Rec Center in constant use each day. In addition to the public high school swim teams that are entitled to use the pool, private swim teams rent it for practices, general admission patrons swim laps, and 425 aquatics classes are held each year for swimming, diving, water exercise and lifeguarding. But to maintain the 20-year-old pool’s popularity, it desperately needed to be spruced up.

“The bare walls were unattractive. They needed some color and life,” says Charles Bittenbring, manager of recreation services for the Fairfax County Park Authority, who oversees the county’s eight recreation centers. He thought a mural would help improve the pool’s appearance, but because of budget constraints and lack of support, his idea languished for years. “Whenever the mural idea was proposed, we never pursued it, because the murals we’d seen were boring, like silhouettes of swimmers or Olympic contenders,” says Patti Gibson, Wakefield’s assistant manager. She finally volunteered to take on the project, but she wanted something exciting, and she got it. The mural, which covered just one wall, turned out so well that she immediately commissioned a second one for the opposite wall.

Selecting the artist

Gibson wanted to find someone who could finish the mural during a three-week window when the pool would be closed for major cleaning and repairs. But most of the artists she interviewed said it would take at least six weeks to paint the 2,600-square-foot wall along the narrow end of her Olympic-sized pool. Gibson was also disappointed with the $20,000 quotes, which was more than she wanted to spend. But she eventually found Tim Grant, who offered to do the job for under $10,000, and said he could finish it in 10 days, once staff painters prepared the wall (which took four days).

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