Adam Long ’01 misses his father and is proud to honor him and a lot of other people affected by cancer with an outdoor mural at 106 N. Rogers St., in Bloomington, Indiana.
The first thing about the mural that might catch your eye is a father holding his child; the two images represent Long’s father, J.D., and himself as a 1-year-old. They face the word “hope” on the mural’s right side. The imagery depicts the start of a lifelong bond between father and son and is deeply personal for Long. He had the chance to visit his father and mother, Claudia, one last time at their Florida home prior to J.D.’s death on July 24, 2022. Long sensed he should say all the things weighing on his mind.
“The last thing I said before I left the room was that I was the happiest man that I could be and that I was following my dream. The next step was to make it a reality to put art in front of people touched by cancer to give them comfort when they are in need of healing and hope,” Long said.
Help came from Long’s college friend Eric Richards ’99, president and CEO of Cancer Support Community South Central Indiana, which has a Bloomington office.
Richards kept in touch and followed Long’s Facebook page, where, four years ago, he saw his friend’s venture into painting murals begin. In fact, Richards’ first request was to create a mural inside the cancer support office.
“I wanted a mural that kind of hit you in the face when you walked in,” Richards said. Richards also requested the mural include scenery familiar to local residents. He’s happy with Long’s creation, which depicts the falls at McCormick’s Creek State Park.
While Long was working on the first mural indoors, Richards said he was thinking of how to have another mural in a more public location to highlight local people who have dealt with cancer and let them know about the Cancer Support Community.
“The idea that popped into my head was I wanted it to be a hope mural,” Richards said. “Adam came up with the idea to use real people and their arms to spell the word ‘hope.’”
Long posted the mural idea on his Facebook page, and the owners of My Sports Locker were among the first to respond with an offer of space. Once he had a location, Long reached out again on social media to find people who have been affected by cancer. He gave specific instructions on how to submit photos and personal stories. Twenty-seven of the respondents now have their hands and forearms painted on the white exterior of the cement block building. Some of the people are local and were part of a ribbon-cutting celebration on Aug. 5, 2022, at the site. While not every person represented in the mural is still living, Long said the three children he painted are all alive.
At the time of the ribbon-cutting, the mural wasn’t yet complete. Long estimated he had another 40 hours of painting to do; he already had put 40-60 hours of work into the piece. He indicated the arms and hands of each person represented would remain in black and white, but the rings, sleeves, necklaces and other objects they are holding or wearing that mean something special to them would be in color. Long wanted to have the mural completed by November.*
“The hope is that people learn about the free service in their community for people who have cancer and their families and friends,” Richards said. “We want people to know it’s all about serving the people.” The Cancer Support Community sunburst logo is part of the mural to help spread that message. Not everyone who submitted a photo and a personal story could be depicted in the outdoor mural, but Long plans to pursue additional mural opportunities that would enable broader representation of people’s cancer experiences.
“It was overwhelming the number of stories I received,” Long said, adding they were pouring in at the same time he was dealing with the fact his father’s cancer was terminal. “My heart couldn’t handle it. I asked Cancer Support Community to help. That made a massive difference to me. I just couldn’t hold all those feelings,” Long said.
Richards is eager to continue working with Long on murals, both because of his talent and his understanding. “Adam knows what it’s like firsthand to be a caregiver. He’s just an inspiring guy, and we’re fortunate to be working with him.”
Reprinted with permission from The Herald Times, Aug. 23, 2022. Edited for content and length.
* Editor’s note: Long finished the mural on Oct. 29, 2022, putting in 19 hours of work to meet his original goal of completion by November.
POSTED Apr 19, 2023