QUINCY -- Jill Thomas concentrates while painting a fingernail bright red on a larger-than-life set of hands.
Providing a proper "manicure" with three coats of "polish" was the goal for Thomas, a student in the Drawing II class at John Wood Community College, while working on a new mural at Salem Evangelical United Church of Christ.
The linked hands inside a heart make up the centerpiece of the mural tied to the three great loves -- the new UCC mission focused on love of neighbor, love of children and love of creation to create a just world for all.
"It's a nice way to convey a message," Thomas said.
After weeks of preparation, the students spent four afternoons bringing to life the mural which stretches along a hallway in the church at Ninth and State.
"It's kind of tedious going through all the steps, but all the hard work in design is already done for you when you get to this part," Thomas said. "The painting's the fun part."
Not far away, Jacob Morrison used his finger to blend some colors in the mural he helped design.
"It's colorful. It's big," he said. "Murals are really fun. You get to put out your artwork in public."
JWCC associate professor Addie Seabarkrob said murals, including one the class did at the Quincy Mall, provide a hands-on learning opportunity for the students.
"These community service projects are really good educational experiences and good life experiences for the students as well," Seabarkrob said. "The process of developing a project and following through on it is a skill that can be applied to almost anything."
The process took the students through analysis, design, developing the details, implementing the project and evaluating the work to do it better next time.
The 10 students collaborated on the project -- honing another essential life skill.
"We never could have done this with one or two people. We need everybody's effort," she said. "As they're working, they're sharing ideas with each other, talking, critiquing together."
Each student prepared a design and presented it to a group of church members coordinating the project. The church selected portions of two designs for the mural, which was then given final tweaks before being drawn in chalk on the wall and painted with acrylic and latex.
"I can't believe this is for a grade," Noah Stull said while working on an elephant. "It's so much fun."
Stull previously had focused on creating digital art, but he found he liked the hands-on work involved in creating physical art.
"Once you get the techniques down, it gets a lot easier," he said. "You do an outline first to give it some depth."
The project provided depth for the new mission – and for a big empty wall at the church.
"They had done another mural for us, and it was well received, so I thought we could use their talents and decorate our wall, make it come alive," said Salem member Sue Welch who helped coordinate the mural project.
Watching the project come together "most definitely" has been fun for JWCC student Sue Miller.
"I did not even imagine it could look like this," Miller said.