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CDC mural brightens up Jewish Community Campus lobby

Children frolicking in the Jewish Community Campus lobby is not an unusual sight. But when they are drawn figurines adorning the new glass walls that surround the Child Development Center’s newly expanded space, they become a work of art.

Installed earlier this year, the mural was drawn by artist Risa Kleban, with input from Jacob Schreiber, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Center; Maxine Benson, CDC director of programs; and Brian Spencer of RDG, the architects who designed the new space. Because the art is attached to the glass, it allows the light to filter into the CDC as well as out to the lobby.

“Our Child Development Center children certainly identify with the life-sized kids they see dancing and playing on the glass,” said Schreiber.

“And just as important, this glass art wall really helps bring our Jewish Campus lobby to life. It’s illustrative of our belief that Jewish education, culture and activity is imaginative and fun, and that when we approach it that way, we enrich our children and they, in turn, inspire us with their Jewish exuberance and creativity.”

Schreiber had the idea for the original glass art wall, but it was Kleban the artist who brought it to life.

“I received a lot of direction from Jacob at our first meeting in Kansas City,” said Kleban, who now lives in the Chicago area. “He had a concept and a good idea. He wanted to depict realistic children interacting with Jewish objects and symbols.”

Based on the original ideas brainstormed by the JCC staffers and the architect, Kleban provided three concept sketches for them to choose from. The Center chose one that they felt “nailed exactly what was desired: a playful, relatable, cultural scene of children interacting joyfully with Jewish items and symbols.” Kleban then expanded the idea that was chosen, making it much more detailed and larger than the original draft drawing.
Kleban grew up in the Kansas City area and attended The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah. She studied art at Washington University in St. Louis, and then became an art director for an advertising firm.
Currently she does different projects, taking on graphic design projects, teaching Jewish art and art in general. The mural for the CDC is the largest project she ever tackled. She started working on it in February 2012 and completed the work in December 2012. It took another month before it was installed.
Kleban put in more than 100 hours of work on the project.
“It was a collaborative effort with Jacob, the architect and me,” she said. “As the process continued, we realized that we had to enlarge the sketch.”
It is a large mural. Even though it was digitally enlarged, it had to go further. Kleban had to darken and widen lines so that when it was digitally enlarged the artwork would still look good. The architect reproduced the drawing using printers that create giant decals. The decals were then cut out and professionally installed on the windows.
Besides being a labor of love for the community, Kleban said it was also a labor of love in honor of her parents, Bob and Sharon Kleban. She donated all the work for the project to the JCC in their honor.
“I wanted it to be a surprise for my parents,” Kleban said. “My Mom found out. They were surprised and pleased.” A celebratory reception in the Klebans’ honor was held when the mural was completed.
“The only thing I can share is emotionally how pleased and proud I was to be involved in this project,” Kleban said. “It is one of the biggest things I have done in my life that I feel really great about. This was a very, very gratifying project.”