First-time muralist makes big impact

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

When artist Armando Mesa, a Historic Northeast native, started the massive piece of art on the west side of the old Aaron’s Rental building in the 4800 block of Independence Avenue, the goal was to portray the diversity of the Historic Northeast community as well as paying homage to the area’s rich history.

The finished product, entitled “Independence Avenue, past, present, and future” does just that and is Mesa’s first large-scale mural work.

“Northeast is a super eclectic neighborhood and I wanted to put in buildings and people that were significant and represented the community,” said Mesa.

The work is part of the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Northeast Summer Mural project and is one of three murals commissioned last May on National Mural Day.

“Murals are an excellent way to show the vitality of a community and act as an incredible economic development generator,” said Bobbi Baker-Hughes, president of the Chamber and manager of the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District.

“We’re extremely lucky to have some very talented artists who call the Historic Northeast home and have shared their talents with our community.”

Three muralists were chosen last May to produce large-scale works along the Independence Avenue corridor including Zachary Laman, Rachael Cross and Dalton Elliot, and Mesa.

These artists were chosen from a field of five artists to paint murals depicting their vision of the past, present, and future of Independence Avenue.

Laman’s mural, “Three Roosters,” was completed first, painted on the east side of the Chamber’s Economic Growth Gallery (EGG) at Independence and Chestnut.

Building surface issues delayed the start of both Mesa’s mural and that of Rachael Cross and Dalton Elliott, whose mural is slated for the east side of the Aaron’s Rental building.

Work on that mural is almost complete and should be installed, weather permitting, prior to the end of the year.

Mesa’s work pays homage to the Northeast High School Vikings mascot with the image of a Vikings football player on the right side of the mural along with an image of the old Villa Capri restaurant sign that once stood on the south side of Independence Avenue just east of Independence and Prospect.

“I spent some time talking with my dad’s barber, Joe Belgiere, down on St. John who told me I needed to have something from the old neighborhood in the mural,” Mesa said.

In the center of the mural is the Aztec sun that signifies the large Latino presence in Northeast.

“The Hispanic population is what makes the community what it is now,” he noted. “It’s a big part of present day Northeast.”

To the right in the mural a bi-racial couple can be seen holding a newborn child, which Mesa said depicts the rich diversity of the Historic Northeast community.

A last-minute addition to the woman’s shirt is the number 15 in yellow and orange, an obvious nod to Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“Everybody was walking by telling me I had to put Pat in there so I had to throw a 15 in there somewhere.”

Being Mesa’s first mural, he said he was pleased with the constant positive feedback on the project.

“It was a fun project and I’m glad I got this opportunity,” he said. “People walking by were always complimenting me, people driving by and honking at me, it was just an awesome experience.”

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