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Local artist adds a splash of color and faith to Paul’s Pantry walls

Her paintings are now on display throughout the pantry

By Donna Schuld

Janet Smith said the paintings, done in acrylic paint, took her about four months to complete. Josh Staloch Photos

With an aim to provide a welcoming environment for those in need, Paul’s Pantry recently partnered with a local artist to bring some color and faith to the pantry’s white concrete walls. More than 20 canvases now cover the walls inside the pantry, featuring painted images in vibrant colors relating to food and to the spiritual nature of the pantry’s mission.

The works were created and donated by Janet Smith, of Allouez, after a member of her church, Bob Hornacek, the assistant director at Paul’s Pantry, approached her about his wish to add color to the facility’s plain white walls.

Smith said she jumped on board immediately.

“I was very excited because of the subject matter,” she said. “I love to do anything faith-based. When they told me they wanted to do something within their Catholic identity, something inspirational, uplifting for people, then I was excited about it.”

Smith said she received a lot of inspiration from pantry staff.

“When I came in, their team here had wonderful ideas, so we walked through the facility and I got a lot of great images in my head,” she said. “One of the girls here suggested canvas piecing. That really helped me get nice and detailed on the work. Otherwise, it’s more of a crude graphic look on the walls.”

Hornacek said the paintings align well with Paul’s Pantry’s mission.

“We could not be more pleased with Janet’s work,” he said. “From the paintings of fruits and vegetables to the dairy items to the spiritual pieces, it all captures the spirit of what we do at Paul’s Pantry every day. Yes, we provide food, but we do it differently. There is a spiritual foundation to everything we do. Our work is all about recognizing people’s God-given dignity.”

A lifelong artist, Smith said she is no stranger to large projects.

“I’ve done a fair amount of mural work in the last 15-20 years,” she said. “Our kids were at St. Matthew’s Catholic grade school for over 20 years, so I did quite a bit of work within that school, and I ended up doing some other things for Catholic grade schools in the area, usually faith-based things. I’ve done outdoor murals also. This is different as far as working on the canvases on a big scale, which I really enjoyed because I was able to do it away from the project site, at home on my own time and in my own space.”

Smith says the paintings, done in acrylic paint, took her about four months to complete. “It was really fun the day we got it all hung. People were really excited about it.”

Smith said the common theme in her work stems from her Catholic faith.

“I always incorporate scripture within it, very subtly,” she said. “I really feel like my mission is to share the message of, and hope of, Christ. I honestly do. I hope it’s uplifting for people.”

Hornacek said he also sees the affect the new artwork is having on people visiting the pantry.

“Not only do these beautiful paintings represent our mission, they also bring joy to the faces of our guests and volunteers,” he said. “We are so grateful to Janet for sharing her gifts and talents with the people of Paul’s Pantry. Her gift to us shows, once again, how generous and loving the people of Northeast Wisconsin truly are.”

Busy as she is with painting, Smith said she still hopes to make time to volunteer at Paul’s Pantry.

“My husband is going to be retiring in a month or so, and we hope to come over here as a couple and do whatever needs to be done,” she said, “so we’re looking forward to that. Paul’s Pantry meets such a fundamental need. People need their food, they need respect and the need to feel like they’re part of something. If we can help in some small way to make that happen – that’s exciting.”

Donna Schuld is a freelancer from the Green Bay area. She writes for both Green Bay City Pages and The Press Times.

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