Mural Artists from Kansas City Art Institute, along with soccer players from the youth soccer club Global FC, gathered Friday afternoon to continue work on a mural project on the back side of the Express Stop at 4815 Independence Avenue, bordering the alley that runs East-West between Brighton and Van Brunt.

In the words of the neighbors who live behind the project it is breathing new life into an otherwise abandoned alleyway. The new mural is part of an ongoing, community-wide mural project taken on by the Northeast Chamber of Commerce and the Independence Avenue CID to enhance economic development and the quality of life in Historic Northeast.

Mural project coordinator Fai Beal wanted involvement at all levels of expertise, from beginner to seasoned mural painters, each with their own section of the roughly 60 foot wall space. .”I designed this mural to be a coloring book style so it’s a no fail situation,” said Beal. “Anybody can paint on it–doesn’t matter what level or skill,” Beal said. Stephanie Tyishime, student and a long time member of Global FC was thrilled when Beal asked her to participate.  “I think they did an amazing job,” she said. “I like doing community stuff and helping out.”

Phyllis Hernandez, an employee with the KC Public Library, has her own space in the mural, a piece she hopes will be included in the library’s mural project. “We’ll be taking pictures of various murals around Northeast then displaying them at the library,” Hernandez said.

Artist, Madi Sanchez-Martin who paints under the name Madi Sun Sanchez learned of the project through Pendleton Heights resident and Kansas City Art Institute Associate Art Professor Hector Casanova’s Mural call to former students. Sanchez’ mural art revolves around the mural’s theme of healthy lifestyles. “My piece is about cultivating healthy lifestyles through yoga, gardening, plant based eating and healthy foods,” Sanchez said. This is Sanchez’ second large scale mural work; her first is in the country of Morocco. “Just something I did randomly when I was there.”

Emily Alvarez, another KCAI graduate, also learned of the project through Hector Casanova. Alvarez’ piece depicts kids playing a pick-up game of soccer. “I wanted to show a spontaneous, team-based game without the uniforms that would designate teams, said Alvarez. “Kids feel a lot of pressure to look and dress a certain way to fit in with other children, Alvarez noted. ” I just really like the idea of kids being kids.”  

Neighbor Kimberly Woods is thrilled about the change she’s seen in the last year or so up and down the alley. “I think it’s wonderful! You don’t see much of this going on” she said referring to the new look of an otherwise drab wall. “My husband came out here with a machete and said “If you touch this wall…,’” she laughed.

Other local artists involved with the project are Zac Laman and Isaac Tapia. 

“I think we’re bringing a whole new piece to this once negative space in Northeast,’ said Bobbi Baker-Hughes, Independence Avenue CID CEO. “It’s something really positive that’s happening.The neighbors are loving it, the artists are loving it, the businesses are loving it, and we’re going to make it happen in a lot more places.” 

An official unveiling is slated for later this month.