Saturday, May 30, 2015

Topeka Capital - Journal Supports the Great Mural Wall

Editorial: Mural Wall Needs a Push
In April 2006, city officials and members of the Chesney Park neighborhood gathered at a white wall that formerly served as the shell of a water storage reservoir to announce the commencement of fundraising efforts to transform that wall into the Great Mural Wall of Topeka.The goal was $30,000 for the first phase of the project, which a city spokesman said would transform “the white-washed carcass of a now-defunct 10-million gallon water reservoir into a colorful piece of public art.”

The first 60-foot panel was painted in 2007 at a cost of about $12,000, but transformation of the “white-washed carcass” has taken longer than expected, primarily due to the difficulty of raising money following the demise of the Kansas Art Commission. Work on the mural stalled for more than two years because of a lack of funding. Anyone who has a few dollars, or some pocket change, to spare should consider giving the Great Mural Wall of Topeka a boost. There is room on the wall for two more panels. To date, each panel has cost about $12,000.

 What began as a Chesney Park project has become a community affair, although Tom Benaka, who was president of Chesney Park NIA when the mural idea was born, continues to be its most visible champion. Professional artists are selected to direct the production of each panel and community members, young and old, are invited to participate on “community paint days.”

Lawrence muralist Dave Loewenstein is lead artist for the current panel — the ninth overall and his fifth — “How Topeka Got its Name.” Subjects for the completed panels included Grant Cushinberry, Brown v. Board of Education, the arts in Topeka, and city and state history. Benaka and Loewenstein think one of the remaining panels should be dedicated to the city’s youth, with the final panel providing a look into the future.

Looking into the future was what city officials and Chesney Park residents were doing in 2006 when they decided a blank curiosity stretching along S.W. Western, S.W. 20th Street and S.W. Fillmore should become a colorful art piece of which the neighborhood and the entire community could be proud. Benaka says he is eager to see the mural finished. Others who share his anticipation can help make that happen with a timely donation to the Great Mural Wall of Topeka.

Members of The Capital-Journal Editorial Advisory Board are Gregg Ireland, Mike Hall, Fred Johnson, Ray Beers Jr., Garry Cushinberry, John Stauffer, Frank Ybarra, Sally Zellers and Laura Burton.

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