Painting A Picture Of Community

Members of the 46th Street Mural Project

Some organizers of the 46th Street Mural Project - l to r - Deborah Bell, Craig van den Bosch, Matt Gasparich, Gerald Diamond, Ruby Eister-Hargrave, Linda Clifton, Wyatt Eister-Hargrave and Leah Eister-Hargrave

When is a mural more than just a painting on a wall?  When it unites, and enhances, a community.  According to Matt Gasparich, one of the organizers, the 46th Street Mural project, a cooperative and community based effort to paint a mural on the walls of the Aurora Avenue underpass along 46th Street North, is “all about community building.”

A Community To Be Engaged

On March 2, 2010, at 6:30 p.m., mural organizers invite all community members to the Fremont Abbey Arts Center (4272 Fremont Avenue North) to meet three potential artists.  This will, they hope, be a night of dialogue where the community feed the artists ideas about what the neighborhood around the mural location stands for, represents and contains.  The artists will each bring their own personal interpretation, but their final design is meant to reflect the community in which their mural will stand.

When the artists submit their final designs, the organizers intend to post them on a website and ask neighbors to vote on their favorite.  This summer, hopefully, the winning design will be painted on the wall, again, by community volunteers.  A non-profit and experienced mural painting organization, ArtWorks, will help paint, and provide maintenance for a year.

By An Engaged Community

Organizers hope to draw in a community through the mural, and they already have.  Since they began to work on this, in February/March of 2009, the organizers themselves, a group from disparate backgrounds, have formed into a community of their own.

For instance, the members don’t share a timeline.  Craig van den Bosch has resided in Fremont, near Lighthouse Roasters, for two years, while Gerald Diamond moved to his residence in Wallingford in 2007.  Gasparich has lived in Fremont five years while Deborah Bell has lived and worked here, as an artist, going on 25.  Linda Clifton moved to Fremont in 1984.

They don’t share a common background in community activism, either, although Clifton reportedly met Diamond and Leah Eister-Hargrave involved through FAWN and the Block Watch program.  van den Bosch got involved on the project through the Fremont Abbey, where he volunteers as Art Curator.

Gasparich has past work experience with King County government, and yet this work, as a volunteer, “has given me more energy than when it was my job.”  Gasparich has enjoyed the unexpected social aspects of the project, as has van den Bosch.  “It’s been a good experience,” van den Bosch explained, “When you are in your 30s, it is hard to meet people.  It was a way to engage in the community.”

“Knowing the neighbors has been very difficult,” Clifton echoed, but “this way of getting to know people has been wonderful!”  For Bell, “I wanted something beautiful there,” at 46th, “because I walk by every day.”  Diamond also wants to see “more appreciation of art as a daily part of life.”  In this case, though, community may trump art.  “It always comes down to – it is about a group of people,” Bell explained.

Art can beautify.  Gasparich has previously, with grant funds, “planted an acre of trees in the area,” of the mural, in his attempts to “make riding the bus a more pleasant experience.”  Yet, art can also engage.  The cooperative effort of the organizers illustrates this, and their determination to do even more.  As Gasparich stated, he wants to install a mural, “so the neighborhood takes an interest.”

©2010 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.


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