Those who now pass by the Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville, may find it harder to tear their eyes away from the large silver “Q” structure.
Working outside in the cold winter air, Dylan Mulka, a sophomore at Lakeview Academy, put in 147.5 hours of manual labor installing a gravel path with stepping stones around the building’s statue leading to the parking lot. He will soon add benches to the setting and brighten the center’s front sidewalk and steps with pressure washing.
This project marks Dylan’s biggest step toward earning Eagle Scout status.
“It’s going to be here a long time,” he said. “It’s rewarding to put in all this effort and see a really cool result.”
Dylan, who is a part of Troop 16 in Gainesville, said he had previously displayed his artwork at the Quinlan’s youth exhibit and felt compelled to make the center even more of a destination.
After reaching out to Nairika Cornett, executive director of the Quinlan, Dylan said he decided to focus on the building’s appearance. His aim was to not only draw people’s gazes to the center, but create an inviting space where people can spend time outside, either walking on the path or lounging on benches.
“Education, exhibitions and community engagement are our first priorities,” Cornett said. “These kinds of things (property modifications) take the backseat because of finances. When he came along, I said this may be an opportunity to bring more attention to the Q.”
From May to December 2020, Dylan said he underwent the approval process for his project and conducted research on creating gravel pathways and the most affordable and aesthetically appealing options for materials. He ended up using 71 stepping stones and 5.5 tons of sandy-colored gravel.
Teaming up with a friend, Dylan also added sod around the path on Jan. 25 to cover the barren ground. On Jan. 23, he coordinated most of the path installation with a group of 18 Scout members, friends and their parents. Using his own research and knowledge gathered from local contractors, Dylan set the crew to work.
“It’s just a challenge of my leadership skills to lead these people into doing something that they have no idea how to do,” he said. “You have to teach, then lead.”
Cornett said Dylan went “above and beyond” checking with her on preferred colors for the walkway and making sure the center’s lights near the Q operated properly.
She watched from her office window as the high school student led his peers and finished the path.
“The greatest thing for me, other than what’s left behind, is to watch them work together,” Cornett said. “Everyone else was in essence helping Dylan, but the commitment each one had, even the young boys, was astounding of how well they worked together. It’s a gift.”