Abby Hoover
Managing Editor

In October 2022, two murals were unveiled at the intersection of Independence Avenue and Bales Avenue.

The collaborative works, along with the transformation of an adjoining east-west alley between Bales and Indiana, create a whole new vibe at an intersection that once had a history as a problem area for nearby businesses and residents.

Commissioned by the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District, the two new murals joined over 40 other murals in Historic Northeast, making it the most “mural-rich” community in Kansas City.

The east-facing mural, painted by Brian Mapes, known as Becoming More, on the side of El Paso del Norte restaurant at 3430 Independence Avenue, was inspired by overcoming obstacles and struggles associated with growth.

“The mountains represent the obstacles in people’s lives, the first one represents depression,” Mapes said. “The light shines brightest in the darkest places so that’s just a thing, right where people need help.”

Sal Iniguez, El Paso del Norte’s owner, loves the transformation.

“I love it,” Iniguez said. “And from what I see on other buildings, when they do this [mural art], the graffiti guys don’t mess too much with it. I’ll tell them to stay away from that wall.”

Mapes also gave the alley behind Iniguez’s building a huge makeover, creating a shaded, mulch-lined walking trail, complete with native plantings designed not only to add beauty but also be utilitarian in terms of providing fruit to those passing by.

“There are fruit tree seeds planted in every single painted tire,” Mapes said. “There’s pawpaws, apples, peaches, pears, all kinds of stuff planted the whole way.”

The west-facing wall of Express Stop at 3500 Independence Avenue also got the royal treatment by local artist Kye Benjamin Stone, whose four-panel mural depicts pathways through four different forested environments, all from different parts of the world.

“I wanted to make it sort of a three-dimensional kind of environment where each person can look at the forest, but not just look at it as just a two-dimensional image,” Stone said. “Kind of like either the forest coming out at them or them going into the forest. So that’s why I made a path for each one. A little, narrow forest and for me, personally, that feels like this is like a tranquil environment.”

Northeast Chamber President Bobbi Baker-Hughes celebrated the transformation of one of the Avenue’s most challenging corners in terms of crime and trash.

“This is the culmination of everyone coming together,” Baker-Hughes said. “Business owners, artists, the community, working together to transform this corner into something positive, something good.”

The alley transformation and associated mural done by Mapes was a six-month long project. Stone’s mural was roughly three weeks in the making. Both artists praised the Chamber and the CID for their involvement along with the community at large.