• Lancaster Lofts – Open Studios for Creative People
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Murals R Us

Posted by Flora Alexandra No Commented Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Gee I hope that phrase isn’t copyright protected!  But it’s so true.  The Near East Side is home to 5 major murals, installed over the last 10 years and we are about to install our 6th!  The first was the “Community in Harmony” mural on 1316 E. Lancaster (see post entitled “10 Years”).  Last week we completed a 10 year face-lift that included repairing joints, repainting to restore and repair the art, and adding a bright new coat of paint to the red base.  See a pic of the artists at work on the Union Gospel Mission Facebook page, posted June 20.

The second mural was “Imagine No Violence” installed on the south wall of 1350 E. Lancaster.  The work by local artist and teacher, Jo Dufo, was supported by a grant from Safe Cities, FWISD and us.  Jo Dufo, a forever child of the 60’s, is an award winning professional who came to Fort Worth from Sante Fe more than 10 years ago now.  Her work is whimsical and uplifting.  I remember meeting Jo at an exhibition of her work at Evelyn Segal galleries.  Jo was recruited for the Fort Worth Independent School District by director, Beverly Fletcher, with a challenge to “try it for a year – I think you will be amazing”.  Beverly was right.  Jo was the recipient of the annual FWISD Chair for Teaching Excellence in the Visual Arts just a few years after starting her work with elementary school children.  Jo inspires and expects real art from her students – no scribbling allowed!  And they know she loves them.  Jo had a background in mural installations from Santa Fe.  We brainstormed this project for a Safe Cities/FWISD competition and won!  The Union Gospel Mission, owner of the building, was delighted to permit the installation that borders on “Unity Park”, a Saturday morning safe place to recreate for neighborhood residents and others to meet, greet and share.  The mural was the first of many improvements to our neighborhood “park”.  Jo wanted to include as many of her students as possible in the mural installation.  So we put an announcement in the paper and she sent flyers home from school.  We had no idea what would happen!  But on the Saturday morning, dozens and dozens of students, parents, and community folks showed up with no hesitation to work under Jo’s supervision.  And it still adds beauty and warmth to our neighborhood.

Then, Jo brought us another project.  Sister Cities International was celebrating its 50th anniversary with a special conference of youth from all the Fort Worth Sister Cities around the world.  This time, Jo worked with two other artists (one her brilliant daughter!) and Sister Cities to design and install a beautiful, and surprisingly delicate work of peace and friendship.  The work is located on the west side of the Union Gospel Mission warehouse near the 1100 block.  It’s the first thing you see as you enter the Near East Side from the west.  In conjunction with the youth conference, Jo also supervised the installation of a “peace mural” on the south side of East Lancaster at 1200 and 1112.  Each student painted the word “peace” in their own language.  When it came time for the traditional conference group photo, the students insisted that it be taken in front of their work of art.  Sadly, this work has been painted over, but it’s all good.  I like to think the mural helped attract our two newest commercial businesses – Got You Covered, in a beautiful rehab of the old Acme Coffee Company building, and Aquatech, an emerging aquaponic food production business.

And I almost forgot!  The Flag Building!  At 1100 E. Lancaster, first home of the Veteran’s Administration’s Fort Worth contracted work therapy program (CWT), Mike Zelanko, then program director, commissioned Michelangelo (a former resident of the Near East Side and veteran) to paint something to honor the services.  Michelangelo chose the flag and installed the mural solo.  Michelangelo is an accomplished artist whose passion is realizing unusual photographic portraits of famous persons in graphite.  His portrait of Malcolm X hangs in a library at Tarrant County College.

But we are not done!  Later this month we will, hopefully, get approval from Texas Department of Transportation and the City of Fort Worth to install a new mural (our first on public property) at the east end of the Near East Side.  The mural is titled “A Community Worth Unity” and is being designed and installed by WAL (We Are Legal), a group of young graffiti artists who started at the FWISD and have turned their guerilla art into a career.  WAL was a key contributor to Fort Worth’s election as an “All American City” several years ago.  So keep your eyes on the median, west-bound lane of East Lancaster, past Riverside, at the underpass (where the speed limit suddenly changes to 30 mph and we have all gotten at least one ticket)!  Prepare to be amazed at the continuing ability of art to transform public space and create community.  Flora Alexandra Brewer