When Brian Guengerich walks into the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center on Haywood Road, he now feels "cool."
He prefers the space so much now that he hosts the board meetings for the Asheville chapter of the national nonprofit in the recreation room dedicated to young people.
That's because over the last six months, nine artists transformed the former thrift store into a floor-to-ceiling kaleidoscopic black-and-white mural.
"Sometimes, you have a vision of what you want a program to become," said Guengerich, who started as a counselor at The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Buncombe County, a program aimed to create opportunities for young people. He became the executive director four years ago.
"To actually see that start to happen with the community and with the community support" it makes him feel cool, he said.
"My whole thing has been about creating opportunities and to have them here," he said of the only teen center of its kind in the city. "If they are here that means they aren't out doing something not productive."
The organization decided to pursue a playful mural project because "we wanted to make (the center) relevant," he said. The Teen Center houses recreational options, like pool and Foosball tables. It is also hosts some of the club's programs, such as Money Matters, a financial responsibility program.
"We wanted to make a place that they wanted to come every day and a place that they could take ownership of every day," he said.
The art end of the project was led by West Asheville-based painter, Dustin Spagnola. He started the mural process by meeting with a small group of the teen program, and asked them for ideas, Spagnola said.
"It's for them, the youth of the space," he said. He took notes on what the kids said they liked -- everything from turtles to Kurt Cobain. There's rock n' roll. Underwater life. sports. And design work, like peace symbols and leopard spots.
Spagnola organized nine artists, all but one live in the area (Paper Frank, an Asheville native who lives in Atlanta, contributed). The walls were originally painted a variety of colors -- a section of a wall were painted to correspond with different thrift store sections, Guengerich said.
The Young Professional of Asheville painted the first white coat of paint to cover the rainbow stripes; members of the Boys & Girls Club painted the second coat.
The artists donated their time; the paint and other materials were donated by The City Bakery, Guengerich said.
The mural blends these nine signature styles, and adds to the street art feel of the space. The mural is made up of moments, individual images done with an individual style.
For instance, Gus Cutty (Gus is Rich) produced a realistic portrait of a boy on one wall. On the opposing wall, Nathanael Roney depicted a baseball player in his distinctive graphic format.
"The artists became family" to us, Guengerich said.
The Boys & Girls Club members were also invited to help paint when appropriate.
"Kids could feel comfortable and they can also express themselves," said Guengerich.
What is the Boys & Girls Club Teen Program?
According to the website, "The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Buncombe County offers a variety of programs. Our mission at the Boys & Girls Club is to reach those kids who otherwise may not have anything to do. This is why we decided to open a separate Teen Center here in Asheville. Our teens have their own space where they can express themselves, with freedom to explore in a safe environment."
School-year hours: Open until 6 p.m. Monday-Friday
Summer hours: 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Friday
"The Teen Center is run like a traditional Boys & Girls Club that includes nationally accredited programs from the Boys & Girls Clubs such as Triple Play, SMART Moves, Money Matters, Career Launch, Keystone and many more programs to educate the teens and open their minds."
For more, visit www.salvationarmycarolinas.org/bgcasheville/.