Adam Long misses his father, J.D. Long, but found a way to honor not only his dad but a lot of other people in the Bloomington area and beyond with a mural on the side of My Sports Locker, at 106 N. Rogers St. near the corner with Kirkwood Avenue.
Long’s father, holding up a 1-year-old version of Long, is painted at the left of the mural, with the hands and arms of other people who have been touched by cancer to the right.
Long’s father and mother, Claudia, live in Florida and the last time Long visited his dad there, he said he knew it was probably his last visit. Long’s father died July 24.
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“My whole body could tell,” Long said. “The last thing I said before I left the room was I was the happiest man that I could be, that I was following my dream. The next step was to make it a reality to put art in front of (people touched by cancer) to give them comfort when they are in need of healing and hope.”
The first mural, and the second
The mural was the idea of Long’s college friend Eric Richards, now president and CEO of Cancer Support Community South Central Indiana, which has a Bloomington office. The two attended Franklin College in the late 1990s.
Richards kept in touch and followed Long’s Facebook page, where, four years ago, he saw his friend’s venture into painting murals begin. In fact, Richards’ first request was that Long create a mural inside the cancer center’s Bloomington office.
“I wanted a mural that kind of hit you in the face when you walked in,” Richards said of the office mural.
Richards requested local scenes and he’s happy with Long’s creation, which depicts the falls at McCormick’s Creek State Park. Long began painting the mural in January and completed it in March.
While Long was working on the office mural, Richards said he was thinking of how to have another mural in a more public location to highlight local people who have dealt with cancer and let them know about Cancer Support Community.
“The idea that popped into my head was I wanted it to be a hope mural,” Richards said. “Adam came up with the idea to use real people and their arms to spell the word ‘hope.'”
Long posted the idea of the hope mural on his Facebook page and the owners of My Sports Locker were among the first to respond.
Once he had a location for the mural, Long reached out again on social media to find people who have been affected by cancer. He gave specific instructions on how to submit photos and their information. Twenty-seven of those people now have their hands and forearms painted on the white exterior of the cement block building. Some of the people are local and were part of a ribbon-cutting celebration on Aug. 5 at the site. Others aren’t from the area and may not realize their hands are on the wall. While not every person represented on the wall is still living, Long said the three children he painted are all alive.
Even with the celebration, the mural isn’t yet complete. Long estimates he has another 40 hours of painting to do; he’s already put 40-60 hours of work into the piece. The arms and hands of each person represented will remain in black and white. But the rings, sleeves, necklaces and other objects they’re holding or wearing that mean something special to them are in color. Long wants to have the mural completed by November.
“The hope is that people learn about the free service in their community for people who have cancer and their families and friends,” Richards said. “We want people to know it’s all about serving the people.” The Cancer Support Community sunburst logo is part of the mural to help spread that message.
Not everyone who submitted a photo and a personal story will be depicted on the My Sports Locker mural. Long hopes to include others in similar murals he hopes to paint on buildings in the area and possibly across the state.
“I would like for this to be the main focus of my living,” Long said recently, while painting a sunrise mural at a Bloomington residence. The other painting Long does supports his venture into continuing the murals.
“It was overwhelming the number of stories I received,” Long said, adding they were pouring in at the same time he was dealing with the fact his father’s cancer was terminal. With all he was dealing with, Long said he couldn’t handle it. “My heart couldn’t handle it. I asked Cancer Support Community to help. That made a massive difference to me. I just couldn’t hold all those feelings.”
Richards is eager to continue working with Long on murals, both because of his talent and his understanding. “He knows what it’s like first-hand to be a caregiver,” he said of Long. “He’s just an inspiring guy and we’re fortunate to be working with him.”
Anyone who wants more information about Cancer Support Community South Central Indiana, at 514 W. Second St., can all 812-323-1535.
Contact Carol Kugler at email@example.com, 812-331-4359 or @ckugler on Twitter.