WESTCHESTER – What was once a blank white wall near the baby pool at the Westchester Community Swimming Pool is now full of color, after a group of area residents painted a mural with an underwater ocean theme just in time for the pool’s opening.
Westchester resident and artist Jen Kryczka and her husband, Rich Kryczka, worked with four area teens to create the child-friendly mural, which features sea creatures like whales, jellyfish, turtles and more in various situations.
Jen Kryczka, who designed the mural, said some of the creatures have babies with them in the scenes, which is something she wanted to include because of its location near the baby pool.
“It’s a playful, illustrative style that gives the sea creatures unique personalities,” she said. “I wanted it to have a young look, something that would appeal to kids. There are a lot of smiles, cute faces and bright colors.”
Kryczka, who previously has taught art classes at Riverside Arts Center and the Westchester Park District, approached the district years ago to ask about painting a new mural on the 9-by-34-foot cinder block wall, but at the time, there was no money in the budget for the project.
She said she wanted to do a mural because the old one was fading and peeling.
But Kryczka was given the green light this year, and the group began working on the mural on weekends beginning in late April. They finished it June 1, the day before the pool opened for the season.
“The old wall had a lot of wear and tear, and it needed a fresh look,” she said. “Once our daughter got into high school, I thought this was a good time to try again. This is a great opportunity for me to give back to the community.”
Kryczka asked some of her former students, whom she described as “phenomenal artists," to work on the project. She said the four girls – her daughter Isabelle Kryzcka, Maddie McDowell, Eva Ryan and Abby Jimenez – worked extremely hard.
“They all have so much talent and were very dedicated,” Kryzcka said. “We worked on everything together. It was truly collaborative. It was an undertaking, but it came out really great, and I’m really proud of it.”
Westchester resident Ryan, 15, said she was really excited to work on the project because she’d never done something as large as a mural.
“It was a lot different than the pencil sketches that I usually do, so I learned a lot,” she said. “It’s really cute, and it’s cool to give back to the community in a creative way like that. I appreciate that Jen invited me to help.”
Jimenez, 14, said she was surprised Kryzcka asked her to join the project, but she was honored to be a part of it.
“It’s something that will stay up for a long time, and it was a big deal to me that she asked me [to help],” the Westchester resident said. “It was fun getting to know the other girls. I’ve never painted a mural before, and it looks amazing. I’m proud of what we’ve done.”
Park District staff members also are impressed with the mural. Lianne Robinette, superintendent of recreation, said the district was “ecstatic” Kryzcka was willing to paint the wall.
“The end result is amazing. Many hours went into this project, and it shows,” she said. “We can’t say enough, and we hope the community appreciates the new backdrop to our 4 and under kiddie pool area. Jen and her group made this colorful sea life mural come alive.”