JCC teen paints an ocean of scholarships

Aug. 28, 2013 @ 10:40 AM

Hermit crabs, starfish, sand dollars, turtles, sharks, sea horses, squids, a dolphin and an orca are a colorful, ocean life backdrop for swimmers at the Levin Jewish Community Center outdoor pool in Durham. Painted on the walls of the snack bar, the sea creatures serve more than just decoration – they’re also part of a project to fund scholarships.
Sadie Rapp, 16, began the mural in the spring, painting outlines at first. As each sea creature has been sponsored for varying donations – from $50 to $5,000 – she paints in the crabs, seahorses and such. Her family adopted the first one she painted, a green and white puffer fish named Luther. Each “adopted” animal has its new name added to the painting as well.
Sadie’s work can also be seen in Carrboro, on the Balanced Movement Studio on West Weaver Street. She painted dogs, a cat and a sea turtle there three years ago as a fundraiser for the Chapel Hill Preservation Society to restore other local murals. The JCC mural was a combination of her idea and her mother’s – Bryna Rapp, who has been involved with the JCC since the planning stages. The JCC opened two years ago on West Cornwallis Road and serves the Durham and Chapel Hill community. The JCC was looking for a unique way to fund scholarships, Sadie said. The most available space for a mural was by the pool concession stand, so she has been painting that area using the water theme.
The Rapps are JCC members and live outside Chapel Hill. Sadie has been working on the mural periodically since the spring, sometimes with little swimmers coming out of the pool to watch her paint. It’s sweet and lovely when they do, she said.
Camp ended last week, and the adopt-a-sea-creature campaign raised more than $26,000 for camp scholarships. The funds go toward camp scholarships as well as JCC member scholarships throughout the year, said Shoshana Israel of the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill, the nonprofit umbrella of the Levin JCC.
Sadie, who is independently homeschooled through correspondence and taking art history at UNC, said she definitely sees herself going into art professionally. Seeing her paintings on public display and enjoyed by others gives her confidence in her work, she said. Her parents are both very community-oriented people, she said, and she has grown up with the attitude that you should, whenever possible, do something that benefits other people.
Sadie said about half of the sea creatures have been painted in and the JCC has met its goal for scholarships this year and will raise more for next summer’s camp scholarships. One of the creatures yet to be painted is a big sea dragon, the mascot of the JCC swim team. For information about adopting a sea creature or the Levin JCC, visit www.levinjcc.org.