Damon Migliore is a sort of jack-of-all-trades as a Hall County Fire Services sergeant, painter and tattoo artist.
Migliore, acting officer-in-charge sergeant for the fire department, was contacted by Challenged Child and Friends about the possibility of painting a mural at the school for children with disabilities and their typically developing peers.
Today, one of the longest walls in the school is painted a bright white with multicolored, airbrushed hearts covering it from floor to ceiling.
“He’s never done anything like this before, so I think it kind of challenged him,” said Jamie Reynolds, executive director of Challenged Child and Friends, which begins its school year today. “I showed him a picture on Instagram when he came to visit, and he really took it upon himself to play on that.”
Reynolds said she asked for the mural because she wanted to brighten and update the interior of the school.
“Jamie wanted an abstract piece that was sort of urban-style,” Migliore said. “And I like that old, street-car, airbrushed style. They showed me a couple styles and, based on the mediums I had to work with, I came up with this.”
Migliore said the project was “a little more complicated” than he expected. He worked with one color at a time, spraypainting the hearts across the wall over each other.
“I’d finish one color and then go, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to do 200 more hearts,’” he said. “But it being abstract gave me so much more freedom to put them anywhere. It’s irregular.”
“It’s atypical, like our population,” Reynolds said.
Along with being a firefighter and mural painter, Migliore is a shirt designer and tattoo artist at his brother’s Flowery Branch tattoo salon, Mind’s Eye.
He was familiar with Challenged Child before the mural through the fire department.
“We had a community risk reduction program, and through it, we were able to pressure wash the two buildings at the school,” he said. “(But) we haven’t done anything with Challenged Child since.”
Migliore and Reynolds hope that’s about to change.
“This was a personal project they asked me to take part of, separate from the fire department,” he said. “But it’s allowed me to be reintroduced to the needs of Challenged Child, and we’re currently working on our community risk reduction reprogramming, to work with Challenged Child and do a reading program. So the ball is rolling, and we look forward to doing more work with them.”
Reynolds said the school refurbished a room just inside its front doors that will be used for community outreach. Guests, potentially including Hall firefighters, can use the room for library and story hour or to hold informal meetings.
She added working with Migliore “started the dialogue” again between the fire department and the school, for which she is grateful. Migliore said his station offered its services whenever the school is in need of some labor-intensive work.
Challenged Child and Friends’ staff members get a T-shirt every year that is an approved part of their uniform, and this year’s shirt was designed with Migliore’s mural in mind.
“We want to have this wall be part of and known in the community,” Reynolds said. “So we put it on the back of the T-shirt. Now the happiness in our halls is walking around in our community.”