What began as a response to a Facebook post has spawned a bit of a volunteer movement in Bluffton that is spotlighting how art can brighten up our daily lives.
Lindsey Spears is a professional artist specializing in business and home murals, portraits, live paintings at weddings, and commission work as the owner of PaintingsNStuff. She has been gaining a following here since moving from her hometown Jacksonville to Bluffton four years ago when her husband, Kaleb, landed a job with the Bluffton Fire Department.
Spears’ portfolio is a combination of live wedding portraits, in-home murals, and an array of noticeable business works, like painting the fence at Joe’s Ice Cream and Beverage Company.
While working on a home mural for a client last year, she was alerted to a post from The Pines at Bluffton memory care facility, looking for someone to spruce up their backyard fence area with artwork.
“It was a job too big for just me, so I decided to make a community project out of it,” Spears said. “We put the word out to middle and high school students looking for community service hours and anyone who has an interest in art and wants to make something special.”
Spears soon heard from students and adults alike who wanted to help out. She designed a concept on her iPad that was approved by officials at The Pines and her crew of eight volunteers went to work on the project, finishing in mid-October.
“My grandfather lived in a memory care facility in Jacksonville, so this hit close to home. To see all these kids and adults so excited to brighten up these folks’ day with art, it was amazing,” Spears said. “My grandfather passed last summer. I wish he was here to see this come to life, but he was definitely an inspiration.”
The mural of vibrant flowers and landscapes was well received and gave Spears an unexpected jolt of creativity.
“When art is your job, it’s really easy to get burned out. I was talking with Kaleb and just told him how reinvigorating this was, and that I needed to do something like this every few months,” Spears said.
True to her word, Spears next turned to where her 5-year-old son, Danny, attended kindergarten, Pritchardville Elementary School. She asked if the school would be up for having a mural and received an enthusiastic “yes.”
“For Danny, he thinks it’s all ho-hum, sees me painting every day, so he just figured every Mom paints like this,” she said. “But once we got into doing the mural and his friends thought it was cool, he gave me a smile or two, like I was doing something cool.”
Danny and a number of students helped on the Pritchardville library mural, artwork themed around the ocean with a turtle swimming through a reef as the centerpiece.
“We were there for two days painting and we got to talk to the kids about art and just like at The Pines, they got to see what being a professional artist looks like,” Spears said. “We had one girl who came up and said, ‘I’m good at this,” and she showed us drawings and sure enough, she was and we handed her a paintbrush. It’s just great to expose kids to this passion, unlock the creativity inside.”
Spears has always loved art and began her professional journey five years ago in Jacksonville. She majored in zoology in college and worked at the Jacksonville Zoo until she found out Danny was on the way.
“I thought, ‘This is not the greatest career path for a Mom,’ and that’s when I turned to art,” she said. Spears began doing pet portraits and made enough money and gained enough customers to pursue more creative challenges, expanding to murals and more abstract work. She said the work she does at weddings – painting live onsite as the wedding is happening – is among her favorite and most challenging work.
The Pritchardville piece was completed right before Christmas, thanks to the help of two fellow artist moms, Shannon Lea and Analisa Chase.
“I made a couple new friends and artists to bounce ideas off of there. Just awesome,” she said. “These projects, they are for the community, but they have given me so much as well. It’s just a win-win-win-win.”
She didn’t have to look far for her next inspiration. She took Danny to a volunteer program at Palmetto Animal League, where humans read books to the dogs and cats at the shelter to get the future pets more acclimated to being around people.
“He loved that. He’d bring his Stormtrooper action figures and became an instant favorite with all the cats,” she said.
Spears talked with intake coordinator Sally Dawkins about a mural in PAL’s clinic area. She is currently working on finalizing a design with PAL officials and hopes to complete the next community mural in March, before the outdoor wedding season kicks in to high gear.
“The local hardware stores have been amazing, giving me mis-tinted and leftover paints to work with for these. I love that we have been spreading the art gospel and leaving a little beauty behind wherever we go next,” she said. “It has been a blessing in my life and a great way to get to know more folks in the community. We absolutely love it here, so I hope to just keep the murals coming.”
You can follow Spears on TikTok @the_paintingmama and her Facebook page, @PaintingsNStuffLLC. To volunteer for the PAL mural project, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at email@example.com.