The AARP Community Challenge has helped engage neighbors and make communities nationwide more attractive and interesting by funding mural projects on otherwise empty (or graffitied) walls — and, sometimes, directly on street corners. Click on the image to "visit" the community.
Among the attractions of "Project Joy Bomb," an outdoor event organized to safely bring the community together during the COVID-19 pandemic, was this street corner mural at 17th Avenue and Pierce. (See the "Activities for All Ages" album for more about the event.)
Ville Platte, Louisiana
This Main Street mural commemorates the local Tee Cotton Bowl, an annual high school football game and week-long event (featured in the PBS documentary Flat Town) that promotes racial reconciliation. The 100-foot-long mural engaged more than 100 volunteers to help with everything from cleaning the wall to hosting a celebratory event. "The mural stands as a symbol of the community coming together to work on revitalization — and as an encouragement to restore the city to earlier times, when it was the showcase of Evangeline Parish," says Gwen Fontenot, a board member with The Acosta Foundation, which organized the project. "It's also a reminder of how everyone can work together for the greater good of the whole community."
In 2018, Quarryville Borough made improvements (for both aesthetics and accessibility) to the playground in Huffnagle Park. The 2020 AARP Community Challenge grant supported the creation of a mural on an adjacent building. Older artists from the community mentored volunteers and young artists in planning and painting the mural.
Rock Springs, Wyoming
Murals and outdoor art are a priority for downtown Rock Springs, which is home to the Downtown Mural Project and the Art Underground Gallery. (The latter is housed on the walls of a pedestrian underpass.) Disarming, a 54-foot-mural by artist Rose Klein, honors the region's coal mining past and the Chinese immigrants who worked as miners. Find it at 128 Elk Street.
Anderson, South Carolina
The Anderson Arts Center used AARP grant funds to revitalize a public space by adding a community garden and vegetable-themed mural. Painted in 2019, the mural was the community's first. It has inspired additional murals since then.
Challenge funds helped install community gardens, create murals and clean up and beautify South Jackson, a neighborhood that has struggled due to business closures and abandoned housing. "We must do something about this for ourselves as elders and adults, but even more for our children and youth," wrote Bennie Hudson of the Mississippi Faith Based Coalition for Community Renewal in a letter to the community. A mural featuring a quote by local pastor Bishop Ronnie C. Crudup, Sr. states "Nothing just happens. Someone has to make it happen."
AARP funds helped reactivate and transform the 14th Street Plaza into a vibrant community space by the addition of tree lighting, tables, seating, a shade canopy and murals in the archways located on the wall of an adjacent building. The Three Graces mural by local artists Alexandria Canchola, Monica Lugo and Samantha Rawls is about the relationships between sisters, cities and countries.
An AARP grant supported improvements in the Beechmont neighborhood and its Woodlawn Avenue business district. Safety lighting, pedestrian-level ambient lighting, accessible parking, a parklet and a new alley name ("Beechmont Alley") were all part of the project. The mural by local artist Kacy Jackson honors the area's diversity.
During the planning stages for a mural at the 4th & Rodney Park, Pastor Lottie Lee-Davis, the project's lead community partner, was killed in a car crash. The original goal for the mural was to provide positive examples for the neighborhood youth to look up to as they played in the park. After Pastor Lottie's death, organizers used the mural as a way to honor the woman who was a beloved leader and advocate for the 4th Street corridor's residents. Local artists Crae Washington and JaQuanne LeRoy Daniels made Lee-Davis the central figure in the mural, surrounding her with bold colors and words representing the career aspirations of the area's children and teens.
Public art displays were long-prohibited in downtown Danville. The nonprofit Heart of Danville has supported more than 100 major renovation projects and it installed the community’s first mural. More than 1,000 residents provided feedback about what should be included in the mural designed by artist Andlee Rudloff. In September 2018, 205 people — ranging in age from 2- to 80-years-old — helped paint the mural.
Delmar, New York
The nonprofit Art on the Rail Trail (ART), an initiative of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, sponsors art installations along the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, which is used by pedestrians and cyclists in warm weather and cross-country skiers and snowshoe hikers in the winter. Its first mural transformed a graffitied wall (see the before image at top) facing Hudson Avenue into, said artist Andrea Hersh, "a lush and pristine world of imagined creatures." The mural was funded by a grant from the AARP Community Challenge.
Launched during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way for people to spend time together outdoors, Austin's Healthy Streets program implemented street closures in various residential neighborhoods. Doing so enabled neighbors to go for walks, often with dogs, and ride bikes without needing to dodge traffic. (As "soft closures," the streets were still open to emergency and delivery vehicles as well as those of residents.) Street murals — like the one at Navasota and Canterbury streets — became a popular way to identify and decorate the low-traffic spaces.
Page published March 2022 | text by Melissa Stanton and Lisa VanBuskirk
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