Color naturally has a psychological effect on the mind. When in a state of stress, the right shade could alter emotions or even help victims of trauma to cope.

At least, that is the hope and plan behind the new decor at the Ellis County Children's Advocacy Center.

The Waxahachie-based facility recently revealed its updated lobby where at least 396 families sat last year before being interviewed for child abuse and/or neglect cases.

Leslie Deen, ECCAC executive director, has always dreamed of revitalizing the waiting area to make it child-friendly and seem "safe."

The evening of the block party on April 26, Deen showcased the furniture updates and unveiled locally created artwork that transformed the space.

Amber Ensign has been a certified therapist for nearly six years and celebrated her first anniversary with the ECCAC this past week. She elaborated on the small changes that made a significant impact on clients and the staff.

She explained the art creates a welcoming, friendly environment with its bright and colorful attributes that incorporate symbols of nature, which has been proven to naturally calm stressful moods.

New clients are unsure of what to expect, and if they are surprised positively, it could "help ease that sense of stress," Ensign relayed.

Swivel chairs were placed in the waiting area, and an oversized couch was replaced with a smaller, easy-to-clean sofa. A colorful rug was also purchased to lighten the space.

"We didn't have to spend a lot for a big change," Deen said.

Deen has invested a year's worth of time into updating the lobby and put a lot of thought into each purchase. The renovation cost approximately $1,500.

"The combination of not just the artwork but how that interacts and plays in the room, how the room is laid out or with the furniture," Ensign said. "There's a connection between the furniture and the color scheme to even the rug."

A CHILD'S PERSPECTIVE

The beautiful artwork quickly takes visitors by surprise due to its creativity and detail. Several individuals said the lobby area reminded them of a doctor's office before.

And it Waxahachie High School students and staff who created the art that transformed the area.

Breelyn Wright has taught art at WHS for the past two years and carefully selected her students to contribute to the artwork. She also managed to incorporate her art-one level students as well.

Another idea Wright incorporated into the project was her idea of utilizing recycled materials in the artwork.

"The number one thing about being an art teacher is reusing and repurposing things as much as you can so the students can benefit," Wright explained.

The work included three canvas pieces of art. Two 36-inch-by-38-inch and one 48-inch-by-72-inch piece. One of the smaller pieces is a horizontal colorverse, which was painted solely by Wright. A colorverse is a presentation of colors shifting into different shades.

The other smaller canvas was painted yellow and includes three-dimensional, colorful butterflies, flying off the canvas.

"We had the child's mind when creating the colors to be bright," Wright explained.

Three of the five leading contributors gathered around metal, sturdy tables in Wright's classroom to discuss the satisfaction of the project and its impact.

Alesha Murphy-Atkins is a second-year student under Wright and was selected because of her diverse appreciation of art. The senior also had completed volunteer work with Wright and painted a painting that now hangs in the Tuner Little Chiefs nursery.

"My kiddo is at that nursery, so she kind of did it for me and my kiddo," Wright noted.

To be able to contribute her talents to her mentor and a nonprofit more significant than herself made her feel better about following in her parent's footsteps by giving back. Both of her parents served in the U.S. Army.

"It makes me feel like I accomplish things," Murphy-Atkins said. "Since I love to do stuff for other people, it makes it feel rewarding."

Mackenzie Hines and Georgia Leath are two of Wright's "go-to students." Wright also mentioned Nancy Silvia is a terrific helper and Leslie Gomez has an absolute love for painting.

Both Hines and Leath were responsible for peeling the paint off of the 48-by-72-inch canvas. Hines was so fascinated by the sporadically colored tape that she kept it and gifted it to another teacher.

"It was really fun to see it all come together after we had been watching for weeks on end. It was really cool," Hines said.

The large canvas project came with several obstacles as the painter's tape peeled off after the heaters turned on. Paint would also bleed through the tape, and the white space in between each shape had to be touched up.

Leath said it was emotionally draining, but once they picked up where they left off, the frustrations were smoothed over.

The majority of the students knew that victims of child abuse and neglect were interviewed at the ECCAC.

Leath admitted she had never heard of the facility but had a background in volunteering for the youth through her church, First United Methodist.

She explained every year she participates in the community service project Worship Outside the Walls and this year, she spent her time decorating the Turner campus for Christmas and even put presents out. Leath explained her appreciation for children stemmed from their innocent joy.

"They can have bad things going on, but they don't usually show it. They just enjoy life," Leath said.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450