Former Aaron’s Rental:
Back in 2019 when artist Armando Mesa, a Historic Northeast native, started the mural 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 and pay 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,” Mesa said.
The work is part of the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Northeast Summer Mural project and is one of three murals commissioned that year 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 (CID). “We’re extremely lucky to have some very talented artists who call the Historic Northeast home and have shared their talents with our community.”
His work pays homage to the Northeast High School’s mascot with the image of a Viking 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, which 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 biracial 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,” Mesa said.
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.”
Former Speedy Cleaners:
“Blue Scroll,” the postcard inspired mural that reads “Welcome to Northeast,” by Rachael Cross and Dalton Elliot is on the east-facing wall of 4834 Independence Avenue.
Cross, a resident of Northeast and owner of The Ink Parlor, said one aspect that draws her eye in a neighborhood is a hand-crafted sign, so she was excited that their mural was chosen.
“I wanted to create something where the shadows cast on the letters could represent the theme, so it’s got two different types of shadows: a drop shadow behind the letter and a cast shadow which represents the future,” Cross said. “It’s as fancy as you can probably represent a very literal interpretation of Northeast.”
It was one of three murals selected to be painted for the 2019 Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Summer Mural Project with the theme “Past, Present and Future of the Northeast,” along with Zac Laman’s “3 Roosters” mural featured in the September 13 issue and Mesa’s “Independence Avenue: Past, Present and Future,” featured on the previous page.
People were drawn to these murals because the color choices are calming and welcoming, 2019 Chamber Intern David Tamez said.
In feedback from community members, they said “Blue Scroll” is a good mural to take a photo in front of, and it’s welcoming in not just the words but the colors and presentation.
“These are Northeast artists that are showing you what kind of work is being done around here and what sort of talent is here,” Tamez said. “I think that’s something people coming here can get an experience of when it comes to these murals. They’re not just seeing art in the Northeast—they’re seeing Northeast art.”