By Joe Jarosz
October 15, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Phase one is in the books.
Last week, Hector Casanova and his students from the Kansas City Art Institute, installed six murals along the Anderson Avenue block of the former Scarritt Elementary School, 3509 Anderson Ave.
Cars slowed so the drivers could get a better look at what was being hung. Over the past two months, students painted murals – using black, white and turquoise only – of bees to represent high functioning societies like the various Northeast neighborhoods, peace within the community, history of the area and cuisine from Africa, Vietnam, Mexico and the United States to represent the diversity of the community.
In July, Casanova met with neighborhood associations, local organizations and prominent community members as a way of gathering suggestions for the mural art. He also discussed themes and subject matters with community members, as well as what is important to them to see in their community.
While the murals were being installed, Leslie Caplan, president of the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association, took the time to see the murals in person for the first time.
“When he came to the neighborhood meetings, we were excited about what he was planning to do,” Caplan said. “But to see it in person is even more exciting.”
Caplan applauded the work of the art students. Not only was it completed quickly, she said, but it was also done beautifully.
“They did a great job of incorporating the community’s ideas onto the panels,” Caplan said. “I commend them for the hard work they did.”
And the work isn’t over. Larry Englebrick, director of facilities for the Kansas City Public Schools north zone, said phase two for the project should begin within the next couple weeks, with a completion date estimated for the end of December.
“We’re extremely happy with the project and the product of phase one,” Englebrick said, adding its a positive statement for the community. “Young people and their creativity made this a reality.”
Teresa Pacheco, project manager for the KCPS, said the murals are what the community has always wanted ever since the school closed.
“Then Hector approached us with the idea and the rest is history,” Pacheco said.
Luis Cordoba, executive director of student intervention programs with the KCPS, added that the school district met with Casanova because the school had started to accumulate graffiti and was becoming an eyesore to the community.
“Hector talked about the project and sold us on the idea,” Cordoba said. “Since then we’ve been married with no divorce in sight,”
In the future, Cordoba said he’d like to include KCPS high school students and other members of the community to help with the beautification on the Northeast community.
“We want to help the younger community members take ownership of their community,” Cordoba said. “Once they do that, they’ll become champions of change in the area.”