Los Angeles Times

Wyland wields a paintbrush for Glennwood House

On sunny days, from the right spot in its terraced courtyard, future residents of Glennwood House of Laguna Beach will see two Catalinas.

One, of course, will be the island itself, a familiar hazy brown sliver visible on the distant horizon.

The other sits atop the aquamarine waters of a seascape mural some of those prospective residents painted Saturday morning — with the help of Laguna artist Robert Wyland.

Glennwood Housing Foundation Inc. is in the process of converting a senior assisted living facility off South Coast Highway and Ruby Street into a house that will provide services to about 50 young adults with developmental disabilities. The foundation expects to open the house in the first part of June, said Executive Director Shauna Bogert.

The goal, she said, is to build a community within Glennwood, which will help residents take a more active role in the Laguna community at large.

"Smaller group homes are there to meet [disabled adults'] daily needs, but they don't think about the bigger picture or really have them be part of the community," she said Monday. "That was my favorite part of Wyland being there, because he represents Laguna so well."

Saturday, the local muralist directed a crew of about a dozen prospective residents and their families as they donned Wyland Foundation T-shirts and grabbed paint brushes.

"Together, we're going to transform this into a beautiful coastal scene," Wyland told the group before instructing them to pay close attention to his process.

"You may want to paint murals for a living," he said with a mischievous grin. "Hey, it worked out pretty good for me."

From a blank wall to a mostly finished masterpiece — complete with a barnacle-studded gray whale spraying into the sunset, and other assorted marine creatures peeking through the depths — took just a few hours.

Bogert said she and a couple of volunteers added a little more background and shading in the following days, but the majority of the painting was done between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday.

There wasn't much of a plan, Wyland said, because after completing dozens of murals around the world, he felt fine improvising.

"It's all happy accidents," he joked.

After taking a moment to squint out at the real Catalina, he leaped off the brick retaining wall where he'd been standing and headed straight for a paint roller.

Within minutes, the painted Catalina was complete and a blue water line stretched across the wall.

Soon, the painters began filling in rocks and adding fantastical green kelp stalks to what became one of Wyland's signature underwater scenes.

Others filled in a bright orange sky above the water.

Lisa Scognamiglio, said she, too, was considering letting loose a little, as she painstakingly shaded a large rock near the bottom of the mural.

"I've never been a perfect artist," the 23-year-old said shrugging. "Maybe I should just wing it."

Meanwhile, Scognamiglio's mother, Jill, looked on.

"This is exciting," she said.

The elder Scognamiglio is on the Glennwood Housing Foundation board. She said she's thrilled that Lisa, who survived a brain tumor at age 4, will have a chance to live independently.

"When you have a special-needs daughter or son, it's a small community," Jill Scognamiglio said when asked about her involvement with the nonprofit. She said when young disabled adults achieve a certain level of independence, it "improves self-esteem."

Wyland said he's painted alongside thousands of kids as part of his work through the Wyland Foundation, which he said helps spread a message of conservation.

He's lived in Laguna since 1977, he said, and this year, the foundation will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

"This is a great community event," Wyland said. "We should be taking care of people — young people."

Most of Glennwood's residents will be on Social Security and will pay about $2,500 a month for room, board and services for a single room, and $1,900 for a shared room, Bogert said. She said she hopes that through fundraising they can pay off the house and cut rent in half.

Prospective resident Matt Guhl, 22, said he was glad to help out with the mural as something of an artist himself. He studied animation, he said, and enjoys drawing and painting.

His favorite subjects?

"Whatever pops into my imagination."

For more information on how to help, go to glennwoodhousing.org.


Twitter: @jillcowan

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