Each year, Los Angeles County places more than 70,000 children into the hands of child services due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, and exploitation. In addition, nearly 50,000 of those children are protected by the Juvenile Dependency Court, reports the Los Angeles Almanac. Established in July of 1992, Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court became the first LA County “child-sensitive” dependency courthouse with facilities designed to comfort an already victimized child.

In an effort to increase the comfort and security of the courthouse, a handful of APU students, under the direction of Bill Catling, MFA, Department of Art chair and professor, created seven murals on six different floors of the public parking structure, the rooftop, and a in meeting room. In collaboration with the Center for Academic Service Learning and Research, the project took a full six days and involved more than 30 APU students. They presented LA County with many themed murals including a rainforest, an African jungle, meso-American, an enchanted forest, castles, teddy bears, and an aquarium. The goal was to portray childlike themes, but remain sensitive to the prominent populations that visit the court. The murals have not only made a difference in the lives of children and their families, but the employees as well, Catling said.

Catling first painted a mural for LA County in 1999 and quickly agreed when the courthouse requested his assistance again. Along with project partner Dave Carlson, MFA, assistant professor of art, Catling saw this as a prime opportunity to get APU students involved. He believed that this would enable them to serve God by using their talents. “I wanted them to paint or use creative gifts as an act of service instead of personal expression, seeing that giving of your creativity is a natural way of ministry and connecting with the world,” said Catling.