Edgewood mural exhibits neighborhood effort
At the unveiling of a mural at Edgewood Homes on Thursday, kids pointed out their own drawings or images of themselves within the scene.
The mural, titled “All In My Neighborhood,” is a project of the Full Circle youth program and was made using the drawings, stories and photographs of the program’s participants. Ensuring the project was community-based was key, said Chris Lempa, coordinator for Full Circle.
“The community process of really engaging them as equals and helping them find their voices — and not just lip service that we often do with kids — is very powerful,” Lempa said.
About 30 kids ages 7 through 16 from Full Circle, a drop-in youth program for Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority residents, spent the summer working with local artists on the project. The LDCHA provides housing assistance to low-income residents in Douglas County through its voucher program as well as the 130 units at Edgewood, 1600 Haskell Ave.
The program didn’t want a project where it was just the artists coming in and doing it, but instead a visioning process that fully involved the kids, Lempa said. As part of that goal, the project included an 11-year-old resident, Jafiya Birdling, as muralist assistant.
“I like that I had a say,” Jafiya said. “It’s just like the title says, ‘All in the Neighborhood,’ it’s for everyone.”
The 30-by-4-foot mural includes three panels, each with a scene on the theme of place: the kids’ current home, their envisioned future home and other locations important to them, Lempa said.
“Seeing pieces of their drawings taken out — mixed in with what their friends were doing, mixed in with what the professional artists were doing — and seeing that become a piece of public art, it’s something they are really proud of,” Lempa said.
The program received a Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission grant for about $2,000 in May to fund the project. Two Lawrence muralists, Nicholas Ward and Amber Hansen, worked with the LDCHA’s younger residents over the summer to plan the mural and incorporated the kids’ drawings and depictions of stories they told.
“They really are the designers and content creators,” Hansen said.
Along with the drawings and stories, Ward and Hansen also included actual scenes from the kids’ lives in the mural. Photographs — of residents interacting or playing outside at Edgewood — were projected to create painted versions of the images, Ward explained. The combination of the three elements allowed residents to represent their stories and their community, he said.
“In five years, they’ll be grown up and might have moved away, but it’s just a snapshot of this moment in time,” Ward said.
The mural is installed on a fence outside the LDCHA Barbara Huppee Community Facility, which houses the Full Circle program and is located within Edgewood.