Pearls of The Universe: A Labor of Love


A new mural, called “Pearls of the Universe,” has been painted on the side of Essencia Yoga Studio. The idea came from studio owner and immigrant Jeannine Clinton Bush, who wanted to reach the audience of refugees near her studio and to celebrate diversity in Wheaton.

Pedestrians walking by the College Avenue train station are in for a colorful surprise. The previously plain brick wall on the building that houses Essencia Yoga Studio is now covered with a mural called “Pearls of the Universe.”

Painted by artist R.J. Ogren, the mural aims to celebrate Wheaton’s diversity and the many backgrounds and ethnicities that the city’s residents represent.

The mural has been a work in progress over the last four weeks, and will be officially unveiled on Oct.6. The project was started when Essencia Yoga Studio owner, Jeannine Bush Clinton, began to wonder how to reach the community of refugees who lived in the apartment complex across from Essencia’s building.

“I was thinking, how can I communicate that everyone is welcome here? [at the yoga studio.]… but then as it started to grow, it was more the celebration of diversity that we have in Wheaton,” said Clinton.

The mural is based off of a poem by Wheaton resident Mehret Asgedom called “The Pearl,” which chronicles Asgendom’s journey as a refugee from Ethiopia. Clinton, who came to Wheaton from El Salvador, had Asgendom as a student at her studio and asked her to write a poem chronicling her journey as a refugee. She read Asgendom’s poem and said she knew that she wanted to somehow incorporate it into the mural.

“It was right in front of me that her poetry needed to be the inspiration behind this. I asked her, ‘do you think that you could write a poem, because you embody the very message of this journey that we want to celebrate?’…this poem is a picturesque allegory, as she calls it, of the human journey,” said Clinton.

R.J. Ogren, a retired Disney painter who has painted several sets for Wheaton Drama, was commissioned to paint the mural. Ogren previously worked on such large projects as The Pirates of the Caribbean ride and The Haunted Mansion attraction at Magic Kingdom, as well as painting portraits of celebrities such as Liza Minelli and Sonny and Cher. This mural, however, holds a particular sense of pride for him.

Ogren was selected out of a handful of artists to paint the mural, which he says has stretched him because of the detail and sheer size of the mural, which is 70 feet long and 20 feet high, his longest work. Though he has had to contend with high heat and rain, he feels confident that he will finish by the dedication day. Through the mural, he hopes “To show the diversity of Wheaton and coming together of all people and the hope of living together in harmony.

The mural has been financially supported by the Community Relations Commission and Fine and Cultural Arts Commission, as well as by donations.

According to the Daily Herald, those who donated $50 earlier on in the design process got their name in a star on the mural. In addition, because community was such a huge emphasis of the project, two days were specified for residents to come and write their names in small circles, or pearls, that are a part of the mural.

The mural depicts different international landmarks, such as the great pyramids of Egypt and The Eiffel Tower in France, and will include people from all over the world dressed in their country’s traditional clothing when it is finished. Many people have already shared their remarks towards the new downtown addition.

“Everyone seems very excited. They all seem to have a different part that is their favorite. I get compliments when I am working and also on the Facebook page ‘Pearls of the Universe,’ which has new photos each week. Either that or they are just being nice to me. I feel very good about the development and progress of the mural,” said Ogren.

Clinton, too, has already had positive feedback from the very group she was trying to reach; the refugee population living in the DuPage county area.

“I had a Nepali woman, through translation, say… ‘thank you so much for seeing me,’ and I thought, if that is it, this idea of embracing and acknowledging this beautiful presence, then it just makes me so happy and I think that everybody who has been pitching in sees that as a priority, too, just to love on the diverse journeys that we have all had,” said Clinton.

According to Clinton, the poem and the subsequent process of creating the mural has inspired the process of setting the poem to music and even the production of a mini documentary.

“It has been something that has gained momentum. Everybody that hears about it wants to be part of it and then it has become this contagious thing,” said Clinton. “I have never seen something flow so effortlessly, so it feels like such a privilege to be part of it.”

The contributors of the mural hope that it will serve as a physical landmark that inspires people to cherish the diversity of the individual journey and to appreciate the richness that it adds to community.

“It’s a reminder that it just takes a little thought, a little seed, that can hopefully bring about a lot of good,” said Clinton.

Essencia Yoga owner Jeannine Clinton Bush poses in front of the left side of the mural with yogis Sigitas Stukas (center) and Loreta Medoniene. The mural spans the entire side of the studio, about 70 feet long and 20 feet tall and is being painted by R.J. Ogren, a retired Disney artist.

Essencia Yoga owner Jeannine Clinton Bush poses in front of the left side of the mural with yogis Sigitas Stukas (center) and Loreta Medoniene. The mural spans the entire side of the studio, about 70 feet long and 20 feet tall and is being painted by R.J. Ogren, a retired Disney artist.


It’s a sad day.

I am a day late, but wanted to share my thoughts on 9/11.

I am the daughter of an Army Colonel and the sister of two former air force women. I am also sister-in-law to an Army JAG. Needless to say, my blood runs red, white, and blue. Yesterday, I exchanged e-mails with my family on a day that, 12 years ago, drastically changed all of our lives. Since September 11, 2001, I have waited patiently at home as my dad completed two year-long tours in Iraq, my sister completed a six month tour in the United Arab Emirates, and as my other sister served in Qatar for six months. September 11 lives in infamy for me, as it does for many, as one of those rare days where you can pinpoint your life changing as a result of.

Below are a few excerpts from the e-mails that I exchanged with my family. May we continue to stand strong as a nation, pursue righteousness and justice, and may we never forget the lives that were lost- that are lost- at the hands of evildoers who seek to destroy the human spirit. May we also never lose sight of the fact that until we leave this fallen earth, we will never know true peace. We will never cease to see war and pain. We will continue to endure tragedy. I hold my hope in the Lord, in Heaven, and in a better life beyond this temporary one, wrought with pain and suffering. God Bless. -A


Sad day. Sad because of the events of 9-11. Sad because of all that has followed which has resulted in yesterday’s sad fiasco. never thought we’d be at this point 12 years, 10,000 kias and trillions of dollars after 9-11.

It is a sad day.  But a good day to remember just how proud we are of our dad.  You’re a hero dad and we love you.  Your work touches the lives of so many.


It is a sad day for many reasons. But we can be proud of our family’s sacrifices and the work we have done towards the erradication of jihadists. Even if they continue to plague the world, we at least can say that we have each personally stood against them when others refused.
I am also thinking about the day that the world will be renewed and feeling grateful that, in the midst of politics, evil, and confusion, we can be confident that we are on the true side of Good and Right and that when the King returns, He will annihilate all that is not of Him and there will be no more tears.
It is sad day because our children will never know a world unaffected by terrorism. It is a sad day because my family sacrificed much so that our country could take a firm stance towards the evil committed against us. Now, however, I feel as if our president is backsliding on the once staunch stance we took on terroristic acts.It is a sad day because we cannot comprehend how a loving and just God could allow for His people to suffer in this way.It is a temporary sadness, known to this world and like a breeze in the wind in the grand scheme of our future lives eternal… But it is a sad day, none the less.
We are very blessed aren’t we as a family? And that gives me hope each day. To know that each one of you love him and that we all can trust him and call on  Him to soothe our wounds and, give us wisdom and courage to face each day…
Each of you are heros and more importantly children of faith…and I love you and thank God for each of you.
As we peer into the darkness may He who gives us strength and courage, fortify our souls with thankfulness for each other,
and renewed courage to face the future.
In my Journalism class, we discussed 9/11 and the changes that have ensued in our lives since the fact 12 years ago. Senior Alyssa Paulsen, a native New Yorker, shared her memory of the day and her view that we will never achieve rest from tragedy on earth, but rather only in Heaven. Listen below.