For those of you who are familiar with the murals that were painted in downtown Waukesha this year, you are probably aware that some of them were painted by the nationally renowned Walldogs. The Walldogs painted several murals both earlier this month and back in June. What you may not know is that one particular mural was painted earlier this month by several local kids who have been dubbed the Wallpups.
Twelve local kids were directed by a woman who has a passion for allowing kids to express themselves through art, having been given a chance herself as a kid. Karin Rajnicek is responsible for humbly guiding the Wallpups on their journey, inspiring them, and allowing them to share their artistic gifts.
This is Rajnicek’s inspirational story of how and why the Waukesha Wallpups began:
I was chosen to paint a mural for this second phase of the Guitar Town murals. I was called into a meeting with Mayor Jeff Scrima and other local artists and we were asked if we’d like to lead a team, or be a part of a famous Walldog team whose members gathered from all over the country. I said I would like to lead a team and that my team would be kids. After a brief pause Mayor Scrima looked at me and said, “You know this has to be Walldog Quality.” I said yes, and then gave my reason for my comment.
Do you know why I paint? When I was a kid I was a trouble maker. I was frequently in the office because I was kicked out of class. Let’s just say I was not getting the best education sitting in a chair looking at the secretary. My art teacher said he would give me advanced art 1, 2 and 3 for my afternoons and that he was not going to give me assignments, but that I had the whole art room at my disposal and I needed to come up with something for him to grade each week. I was a kid in a candy store! I was able to be creative, dealing with things that had happened to me and that were currently happening in my life, through art. I stopped interrupting in class and the kids (and I) were able to learn. I stopped taking the pain out on others. I stopped being the bully and hurting people. It took just one person – one teacher – to realize I had a gift and invest in my life to change it forever.
One Chance Can Make a Difference
I also told the Mayor that one day a veteran from The Lions Club in our small town came and asked me if I would paint the big huge 40 foot banner that hung above Main Street announcing when our town ‘Street Dance’ would be. I looked behind me and back at him and said, “You want ME to paint that?” The veteran stated, “yes and I will pay you $100.” I was thinking wow! I’m going to get paid to do what I love to do!
I completed the project and couldn’t believe it as my mom and I were driving up towards the banner hanging there that I painted! For someone to trust in me and help me feel I could be a part of something good instead of where I could have ended up was one more link in a chain of good people that cared enough to take a chance on me. From there people asked me to make pig roast signs and murals as I dreamed of one day painting billboards.
Today I have my own business doing what I love to do every day of my life. “This is why I want to invite the kids,” I said to the Mayor. Yes I believe it will be Walldog quality!
Fast forward to the first day of painting. 12 kids in a small area ages 8 to 17 not all chosen because they had artistic ability, but some were chosen because they needed a chance. I was busy getting brushes and paint colors for the kids on the scaffolding. I was rinsing brushes for the ones who had globs of paint gummed up on them, and giving direction and instruction to the ones who needed to get started and yet again. I made patches out of rags and tape to catch the water as it leaked off the roof onto our painting that then took the kids paint and streaked it for 12 feet downwards etc.. I also kept busy greeting the onlookers and giving them the kind explanation as they stopped by on their way to the deli for lunch noticing the mass of kids freely painting on the concrete wall along their normal route. All of a sudden I just lost it when my daughter asked me to rinse her brush for the 5th time, and I blurted out, “I AM NOT THE BRUSH WASHER!” The record seemed to stop as the kids looked at me. I apologized and took a brief walk around the block.
It’s Not About Me…
I thought I would be painting! I wanted to paint. I love to paint. All I am doing is… then I got it! OH…. this is THEIR thing! It’s not mine. But THIS was theirs and actually THIS is what I truly wanted more than anything! I wanted THEM to take ownership. I wanted THEM to feel a part of this downtown, to bring their families down here, for them to come to Friday Night Live and for lunch and to shop and anything else downtown for the next 50 years and look at THEIR mural. For them to know they are special and “enough” even as a kid to be a part of something so much bigger and maybe even the start of living their dream as I have.
You see, I honestly thought they would paint for 15 minutes and then run off to the Joke Shop and I would have given them a shot and then gotten to paint my design. But they didn’t! They were asking me, “what time should I be here tomorrow,” and painting all day! They WANTED to be there and I needed to realize WHY I was asked to paint this mural in the first place. As humbling as it is to know, it was not because of my ability. It was not that I was any better of a painter than our hundreds of local artists, but that I was now given the opportunity to do what someone had done for me. That meant letting go, and letting go was tough.
I went from ” boss” to ” servant ” but you know, washing brushes is something I would do any time, any day for these kids. One day when the kids were done and I was just touching up some shadows and lettering I WAS painting, I WAS doing what I thought I wanted, but it wasn’t the same. It just didn’t feel as it should, something was missing…the kids. I realize now that I can’t go back. I don’t think I will look at a project again without thinking it would be so much better if the kids were here. Now I can’t turn it off. I know this because currently as I am painting a 2000 sq ft Underwater Kingdom in the Sunday school rooms at church I realized kids should be painting this with me. Then they would get to come each week and enjoy learning in an environment THEY helped create. I wish I had more time; more spaces… back to the story.
Our team name is The Wallpups and I made us shirts with a painted dog on the front with our team name. When I chose our team I only chose 10 (plus a few kids and their parents who dropped in and wanted to be a part of this) but there are so many lives to impact for the better, so many opportunities to give them all, if only we had more spaces.
If Given the Chance – A simply Plight
I know the Walldogs are a national group of adult artists that travel, but if we could give KIDS opportunities to paint murals locally as well as travel, this could be a division or spin off of the original Walldogs. To help local kids, yes but then mentor kids in the areas where we are invited to paint. We have so many local artists that could be mentors to kids. If each of us took just 1 or 2 in this town and mentored them, we could help get kids “addicted to art ” rather than addicted to drugs and alcohol! We have a new Fine Arts School in Waukesha this year and if we had enough local artists that would be willing to be mentors I believe now is the right time for us to be links in a chain of people that care enough to take a chance on kids to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks in our society. I am thankful for Community Art Project in Waukesha who is already helping middle school kids and I would like to see them grow and help more than just middle school kids.
In the end Mayor Scrima was very impressed with the mural and I asked him if there could be more opportunities. He said, “I’ll see what I can do.”
I’m going to hold you to that Mr. Mayor.
Thanks from the Servant and Teacher
I want to thank the Mayor of Waukesha, Jeff Scrima, Mr. Kerry Mackay, the Waukesha Art Community, and everyone who took a chance with having the Wallpups paint the White Rock Mural.
I would also like to give a huge thank you to Sherwin Williams on Sunset Drive in Waukesha. Sherwin Williams provided paint, brushes, tape, tarps and all necessary supplies needed from their store!
Thank you to the Walldogs and especially to Nancy Bennett who started the Walldogs in August 1993. We feel honored that Nancy spent her 20 year anniversary with us! She heard the story of how the kids came to paint. She encouraged them and gave some lessons; even some of her special paint brushes to use and keep as mementos!
Last and most importantly my sincere thanks go to the Wallpups:
Carsen Rajnicek-8: Waukesha
Tayler Rajnicek-12: Waukesha
Dale Meyer-12: Waukesha
Jayden Rajnicek-13: Waukesha
Mikey Plautz-13: Waukesha
Kennedy Unger-13: Waukesha
Amanda Garcia-13: Waukesha
Will Bush-13: New Berlin
Sammi Bush-14: New Berlin
Isabelle Seifert and friend Sam- both15: New Berlin
Cal Bush-16: New Berlin
Mitch Fagan- and friend Sam-both17: Mukwonago
My prayer for you would be to know how special and dearly loved you are and that you would be given every opportunity to live your dreams.
A special thanks also goes out to my mom (Sue) and Aimee Meyer, both of Waukesha. And a huge thanks to John Schoenknecht for his help with the White Rock history.Share this post via: