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Uplifting community: The story behind the Collaboration Zone mural

In 2018, Central Carolina Community Foundation’s Bull Street District location started as a large barren space, completely void but full of potential to be a place where collaboration shines.

The Community Foundation staff collaborated on the suite’s original design with Boudreaux, an architecture firm in Columbia, South Carolina. The Foundation’s staff chose inspirational photographs of offices and words they wanted visitors to use when visiting the space for the first time.

A year later, the staff’s vision of a “bright, professional, and welcoming” space came to life with board and meeting rooms, communal areas, and 14 individual offices.

“We had to cut several architectural elements from our original plan but, with advice from the Boudreaux and Buchanan Construction teams, landed on an attractive and functional design fitting to our mission,” said JoAnn Turnquist, president and CEO of the Foundation.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, the large boardroom, once comfortable, became unusable. Board meetings, large group gatherings, and training sessions had to be moved to external locations.

“We aim to be the region’s philanthropic collaborator, but without the space or tools to promote collaboration, we weren’t able to achieve our mission,” said Turnquist.

The Foundation’s suite was next to a large, open, unleased space with bright natural light and city views. “Our team had discussed expanding our office to include this space throughout the pandemic, but we didn’t have the funds to do so,” said Turnquist.

Around this time, the stars aligned, and the Foundation received a generous bequest and fees from a project undertaken on behalf of a donor. These fees were used to lease and build out the empty adjacent space.

The name “Collaboration Zone” was chosen to reflect the space’s purpose—to be a resource for local nonprofits to create impact through collaboration.

Since opening in January 2023, the Collaboration Zone has engaged individuals and organizations across the region and provided a venue where nonprofits can improve skills through training programs, collaborate with other organizations, and bring trustees and donors together.

“The Collaboration Zone has made it easy for folks to gather together—in-person, virtually, and through a combination of both,” said Turnquist.

The Foundation hired Girls Who Paint Murals (GWPM) to commission a mural reflecting its service area to enhance the Collaboration Zone’s welcoming atmosphere.  

“The mural adds vibrancy and creative depictions of the counties we serve, helping people across the Midlands and beyond feel welcome in the Zone,” said Turnquist.  

Allison “Alli” Dunavant and Christine Crawford, the owners of GWPM, operate their business out of Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina. The duo designs custom commercial and residential murals for clients.

Dunavant and Crawford met on Instagram and decided to start a business together in 2022 after realizing how well they work together. 

“We work best when collaborating with one another because of our distinctive styles,” said Crawford. “My expertise is in graphics and typography, while Alli is incredible at realism painting.” 

Together, the girls have over eight years of professional experience painting murals up and down the East Coast.  

“Being asked to paint a mural for Central Carolina Community Foundation was cool because of how specific and tailored the design was, and we also got to learn more about the state we live in,” said Crawford.  

The Foundation and GWPM revised the design several times before settling on a final one, combining their artistic vision with the Foundation’s mission.  

“We want this piece to be a part of the building and not just a piece slapped on the wall,” said Crawford.  

The wall art showcases the counties in the Foundation’s service area in a unique way.

“This mural will uplift communities that might feel overseen because of their location or population,” said Crawford. “We hope it brings people from different counties and communities together.”