The Waste Management Office Mural

"It doesn't take a heroic effort to become an environmental hero."

-WM Recycle America

Summer 2007

I had a pleasant interlude from working on the Wolstein Château wine room murals during the month of July. Enjoying the fine summer weather I went about working simultaneously on various small projects, both personal and professional. While completing the previous job, I reinjured my back and didn't want to engage in more mural painting work until it had time to heal. It was then that on the twelfth of July I received the following e-mail inquiry:

"We are interested in possibly painting a wall mural for our office and wanted to see if you could come out to our facility and take a look at our walls and see what we can do? Please feel free to call me or email me. Thanks."

The letter was sent by Kim Ciavarelli, Operations Specialist Sr., Waste Management Recycle America. I replied and scheduled a meeting for the following week. Their office was located on their processing facility in Oakwood Village, a comfortable 30-minute drive from Cleveland. So with my camera, a note pad and a measuring tape in my kit -and an audio tape to enjoy during the drive, I set out on my new adventure.

the oakwood village waste management plant View of the Waste Management Recycle America in Oakwood, Village, Ohio.

Waste Management Recycle America

Based in Texas, Waste Management Recycle America (WM® Recycle America) is a long-term venture established by Waste Management in the 1980's. Since then it has handled over 55 million tons of recyclable commodities which then are poured back into the economy in the form of raw materials. They are HUGE. Handling 5.5 million tons of commodities each year, their total recycling efforts save enough energy to power 833,000 households!

Their distinctive green-colour vehicles can be spotted all over the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. But in spite of their high visibility, I really didn't know much about how this business operated. Naturally, I was eager to see the place even if I didn't get the job. I have always been curious about anything that has a technical nature. That was part of the adventure.

I drove into the Waste Management Recycle Facility which is a cavernous structure housing various types of recycling operations. The place was tidy, well designed and efficiently run. Workers in green uniforms and yellow hard hats moved about smartly and operated machinery. By the posting of certificates and awards hung at various spots I could tell this facility was really humming.

the office wall in need of a mural Office wall in need of a mural.

The office was located on the third level and you had to climb a series of metal steps to reach it (note to John: bring help to load and unload). The space contained two desks and a reception area with a hallway leading to a conference room and individual offices for staff. It looked like it had recently been renovated and in fact it had been. However, in spite of several framed prints on the walls to decorated the space, it had a Spartan look to it.

Behind one of the desks was Kim, one of the nicest people you would ever be lucky to meet. After a brief introduction, we sat down to "talk shop". The place needed... something; a landscape -something "nature". She spent all day at the office and wanted to create a more pleasant working environment. She concluded that painting a mural on one of the walls was the way to go and set out looking for artists. Finally, after a slow start, she came across the muralmaster site and that's how she learned about me.

I liked the place. It was cool and relaxed -and it had a fabulous coffee maker! Kim told me I could work evenings and nights without being disturbed and there was a stock room with a utility tub for my water and cleaning needs. I measured the wall, took reference pictures, and inform Kim I would e-mail a few sketches. Once a design was approved a price quote would follow. We shook hands and the agreement was sealed.

The design

About a week later I sent Kim several conceptual images where I proposed ideas for the mural. She would consult with Mr. Arnold Brock, the Plant Manager, and reply with feedback until we pretty much settled on one design. But to shorten the exchange we scheduled another meeting with Arnold who was responsible for final approval.

Close-up of waterfalls -a place I would go for a picnic and comtemplation. Close-up of waterfalls -a place I would go for a picnic and comtemplation.

I must say that dealing with Arnold was one of the best business experiences I have had in a long time. He reminded me of my early days in the business; it was almost military. I was late to the meeting due a medical appointment where the doctor had been late too. Once I got there Arnold joined Kim and I in the conference room and I placed the latest design on the table.

Detail of hot air balloon with company logo. Detail of hot air balloon with company logo.

They liked the landscape image, it went with their company "green" theme for conservation and recycling, but Arnold wanted two additions: an image of one of their company vehicles, and the company logo on a hot-air balloon. Instead of going back home to create another image I took a piece of paper and with a few rendered lines marked the changes. They said it was good, then how much, I said so much, and, without missing a beat, Arnold ended the discussion with a firm -"Okay, let's do it!" And that was that... in about ten minutes flat. -My kind of meeting.

Painting the mural

I started painting the beginning of September after completing another job. Painting this mural was an enjoyable and uneventful experience that took about a month to complete. For the most part, I worked when the office staff had left, arriving around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, and leaving around 2 in the morning. A second shift worked the facility until midnight so there was always activity below. Kim provided me with a key to the office so that I could let myself in and out at my own leisure. Except for the cleaning staff doing their nightly chores, I had the place to myself.

detail of waste management truck. Detail of a service vehicle with company logo.

My sealed plastic containers with equipment and paints were safely kept inside a stock room along with a portable air compressor. To protect the carpeted floor, I covered in plastic the area in front of the mural wall. My mini-scaffolding, used to reach the upper section of the wall, also served as a working table. Cindy and Mindy, my two spotlights, were also kept close at hand (for more on Cindy and Mindy see The Wolstein Château Wine Room Murals). Since the office space was equipped with a refrigerator, a microwave and -let me say this one more time: -"a fantastic coffee maker," all I had to bring was my audio tapes and player.

Detail of hot air balloon with company logo. Finished mural (photographed under warm lights)

The mural was painted using acrylic paints. It was also one of the rare occasions when I make use of an airbrush to create a mist effect on the waterfalls. I normally avoid using the tool because of the investment in setup and cleaning that airbrushes require -not to mention how often they clog when using acrylics. But this mural presented an ideal situation for its use, and so, I brought my portable compressor and airbrush kit along. I followed my traditional routine (again, see The Wolstein Château Wine Room Murals for a complete description of my painting process) and the mural was completed in about a month.

My intention with this mural was to create a very serene atmosphere that would have a soothing effect on the viewer. Very few things in nature create this sensation like the murmur and cadence of smooth, running waters. Soft greens tones, in addition to being associated with nature, freshness, youth and fertility, are also known to produce a natural calming effect according to several scientific studies in colour psychology (in addition to being considered the luckiest of colours -at least in western cultures). Therefore I leaned my palette toward the green. After completing the mural I played a tape of waterfalls and nature sounds while looking at the image and the effect was amazingly refreshing.

Kim Ciaverelli and Arnold Brock Kim Ciaverelli and Arnold Brock.

I conclude this entry by confessing that I had a good time creating this mural and was happy with the final result. What's more, Kim and Arnold were also very pleased with the mural as well as the employees of "WM" at the Oakwood Village facility. For a muralist like me who is fastidious about painting, life would be heaven if all my e-mail inquiries would lead to other experiences such as this. One final comment: please note that the photographs on this section were taken under the office's fluorescent lighting which affects the colour of the images. I tried to compensate by adding the power of my incandescent spotlights before taking pictures but the results are only meant to be an approximation of the real thing. I hope you enjoy them.

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