Great Wall Mural an 'expression of people's stories'June 12, 2011
Usually, art is kept indoors, under a thick panel of glass and is credited to one particular artist. The Great Mural Wall of Topeka is anything but usual.
Located on the west side of the Expocentre and near the intersection of S.W. 20th and Western, the project began in 2006. It is led by lead artists Ashley Laird, a graduate of Washburn University, and Dave Loewenstein, a nationally known artist from Lawrence.
"Sometimes art is considered a commodity to be bought and sold," Loewenstein said. "This project reminds us how important art is for the expression of people's stories, where they live and what they aspire to."
Laird and Loewenstein actively involve the people in the community to determine the subject of each Great Wall painting.
"It's their front yard, their backyard, they drive by it every day. The art is much more than paint on a wall," said assistant artist, Cicelia Ross-Gotta, about the embrace of the citizen's input. "Because it's not in a gallery, we have to approach it differently."
The Great Mural Wall of Topeka started as an effort by members of the Chesney Park Neighborhood Association to clean up their area of graffiti and give something beautiful back to the community.
“People's history envisioned” has become the overall goal for the program. Each painting is used to symbolize events, places or people that are important to Topekans, both past and future.
Already, the 900-foot wall has been adorned with six 60-foot long murals, about such topics as the environment, Brown vs. Board of Education, Central Park Neighborhood and others. When the wall is finished, it will have 15 sections of murals. The seventh installment's title is "Contagious Beauty and Local Flavor." The topic is to exemplify the sources of inspiration in Topeka for the townspeople that cause them to create their own art, in any way, shape or form.
Laird and Loewenstein invite Topeka residents to help prime the wall on June 18 beginning at 10 a.m. Participants need not bring any supplies.
Andrea Marshbank can be reached