Painters Work on New Mural Wall Panel
Despite funding challenges to the arts brought about by state budget cuts, the longest mural in Kansas — and second longest in the nation — is getting a little bit longer. Make that 60 feet longer.
Volunteers on Saturday afternoon weathered 94-degree heat to begin painting the seventh — and newest — panel on the Great Mural Wall of Topeka in the 800 block of S.W. 20th.
After the walls were primed earlier in June, outlines for the latest panel were done Thursday night. Local residents were invited to grab a paint brush and climb a scaffold to start the painting process Saturday afternoon. The community effort will continue Sunday before detail work is completed by artists who are spearheading the project. The newest mural should be done by mid-August.
Cicelia Ross-Gotta, 27, of Fort Collins, Colo., who is in town this summer, has been helping with the mural. "I'm so excited," Ross-Gotta said. "It's really cool to see people from the community get together and work on this."
Andy Valdivia, 62, of Topeka, who has painted a large mural in Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church's Marlo Cuevas-Balandran Activity Center, was on hand to paint Saturday afternoon. He said it was his first time painting a mural in a collaborative effort and said he was impressed with the turnout. "I'm kind of amazed at the whole project," Valdivia said. "When I came here today, I thought there'd be a few people who were here to paint, especially in this heat. But this is a community effort."
Organizers said about 25 people showed up to paint.
The new panel will focus on the theme Contagious Beauty and Local Flavor.
Ashley Laird, a lead artist for the project, said the panel is designed to show the interconnectedness of art and the creative spirit. "That's sort of the idea we've been working with," Laird said, "how art is contagious and how it can spread."
The new mural will focus attention on the growing arts community in Topeka, highlighting new endeavors, such as First Fridays, the North Topeka Arts District and reThink Topeka. The panel also will pay homage to artists who left their mark in Topeka, such as Aaron Douglas, Gwendolyn Brooks, Coleman Hawkins and Robert Ault.
The Menninger Clinic, Mulvane Art Museum and Topeka Civic Theater & Academy also will be included for their role in nurturing the development of the arts in the capital city.
Six 60-foot mural panels that have been painted since 2006 already adorn the previously nondescript white concrete outer wall of the former 10-million gallon city water reservoir, located just west of the Kansas Expocentre. The 11-foot-tall wall stretches 900 feet on its east, south, west and north sides.
Completed murals fill the east side of the wall in the 1900 block of S.W. Western and much of the south wall in the 800 block of S.W. 20th. Murals to date highlight Topeka neighborhoods and community leaders, celebrating the city's culture.
After the south wall is completed, more murals are planned for the west wall in the 1900 block of S.W. Fillmore, then the north wall in the 800 block of S.W. 19th. Dave Loewenstein, another lead artist for the project, said he is convinced the mural will continue, even with funding more difficult to come by these days. "It may be a little harder to raise monies because of some things going on in the Capitol, but it's not going to stop us," Loewenstein said. "There are too many people in the community who support this project. I have no doubt we're going to get this thing done."
The mural project was initiated by the Chesney Park Neighborhood Improvement Association as a way to instill pride in central Topeka and beautify the area while curtailing graffiti. The mural space was donated by the city's water division.
Funding has come from public and private sources, including local residents and businesses.