Jeremy Evans sits as deep as he can in his chair and hunches over so he can talk to the children on each side of him.
Still, since Evans is 6-foot-9, his head pops up over all the kids at the table. No matter. He and the kids are having a great time.
This particular Tuesday afternoon is a day off for the 26-year-old Evans, a break from his regular job as a Utah Jazz power forward. On this day, Evans is enjoying his other love: art.
“I’ve been drawing since I was younger than these kids,” Evans said Tuesday, while sitting in the Art Access studio in Salt Lake City surrounded by children from The Road Home, the homeless shelter about a block away.
The project on which Evans and these kids are collaborating is a community mural, organized by Art Access and sponsored by the Jazz and AT&T. (AT&T, as part of its Assisting the Community program, will be presenting Art Access with a $10,000 check at a Jazz game April 8.)
The kids each got to decorate a 6-inch-square tile, on which they drew an outline of their hand and then painted that outline with ceramic glaze — using the unbent end of a paper clip to spread the color.
Evans joins in with the kids on this part of the exercise, with one difference: While the kids’ handprints fit neatly on the tile, Evans’ outline has his fingers and only an inch of his palm.
The handprints represent the mural’s theme that “it takes all hands to build a community,” said Sheryl Gillilan, executive director of Art Access. “You have to get everybody in the community involved.”
Gillilan said the Jazz approached Art Access about creating some sort of community art project — and they quickly settled on making a mural, “something outside, so everybody could enjoy it.”
The finished mural, which will incorporate 240 tiles and measure 12 feet long and 5 feet tall, is set to be installed later this spring on a wall at the Artspace Bridges Project, next door to Art Access.
Art Access and the Jazz’s home court, at EnergySolutions Arena, are about two blocks apart. Between them are The Gateway shopping center and The Road Home.
“This part of town is sometimes referred to as ‘that area of town,’ ” Gillilan said, adding that she hopes the mural — and the involvement of children from The Road Home — will help brush aside such stigma.
Peter Bland, director of corporate partnerships for the Jazz, said the team sponsored a tree planting last year — and this year wanted to find a project that would involve children and the arts. Bringing in Evans was a natural fit.
For Evans, art “gets you away from everything,” he said. “You can just express yourself.” He works in different media, from acrylic paints to pottery.
The kids are as eager to hug Evans as they are to paint a tile. He sits at the table, chatting easily with the children as they finish their tiles and work on the project’s second phase: to draw on paper a picture of something growing.
While Evans sketches an elaborate rose on some tiles, he talks to one little girl who points out that a video camera is pointed at him.
“I’m on TV? That means you’re on TV,” Evans tells the girl, who retreats into a suddenly shy, quietly giggling ball.
The kids, he said, hold nothing back in asking the basketball player questions.
“A couple of them asked me about the car I drove up in,” he said, laughing.
“You’ve got to have a lot of patience with the kids. Not a lot of people take the time to work with kids.”
On this day, though, Evans is just a slightly taller kid — experiencing the joy children find in making art, in creating something beautiful and expressive.
Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/seanpmeans. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.