Adam Arling and Ryan Pusch along with other University of Minnesota Student Neighborhood Liaisons are on a mission to change the walls alongside the railroad tracks on 15th Avenue Southeast into a mural representing the members of the community.
The liaisons envision the mural on the bare, concrete walls between 8thStreet Southeast and Rollins Avenue — where the railroad runs above the street.
Arling, who has lived in Southeast Como for the last four years, remembers how he felt about the walls when he first moved into the area.
“When I first came … it seemed like I was entering a neighborhood that didn’t seem to own the wall in the way they could,” Arling said.
Now, he and Pusch are trying to create a mural representing the culture of the community in order to build a stronger sense of unity between the residents of Como and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods.
“Our job is about building relationships between students and the other residents — bridge that connection,” Arling said.
He also emphasized the importance of creating trust and respect between the students and other residents.
Another important goal of the project is to improve livability by reducing the chances of graffiti and making people feel safe.
“I think when people pass by these walls and patches of spray paint, they see a wall that’s neglected,” Pusch said. “It’s kind of an invitation to be vandalized.”
The Student Neighborhood Liaisons have been working on this project since close to February when the idea for a mural came out of a committee meeting discussing safety and art in the community.
After the meeting, the city and other neighborhood groups were contacted to see what was needed to complete the mural.
The Student Neighborhood Liaisons with help from the Southeast Como Improvement Association sent a proposal for funding to the Good Neighbor Fund — a resource for neighborhood communities whose purpose is to enhance and protect the beauty, serenity and security of the communities impacted by the operation of TCF Bank Stadium.
Arling said the Good Neighbor Fund agreed to support the mural, but only if the project was approved by SECIA, the City of Minneapolis, the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association and the property owners in both neighborhoods.
James De Sota, SECIA’s neighborhood director, said property owners in the Como area will vote on the project at about 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 16 at Van Cleve Park.
When SECIA’s board voted to send a proposal to the Good Neighborhood Fund there was a unanimous vote in favor of it, but De Sota said there were some members who had reservations.
He said there are concerns about how the wall would be maintained after its completion and that some people just don’t like the idea of murals because “they think they’re tacky.”
De Sota said that even if the project doesn’t get approved, it did get the community involved.
“I think the liaisons have done a great job … to try and get a sense of the community and display that. The main goal was community building, and I think it accomplished that,” he said.
Unlike Como, the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood was involved later on in the project’s development. Melissa Bean, executive director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, said MHNA was not a part of the project in its beginning and at this point considers the mural “a Como project.”
Pusch said even though they initially focused on the Como neighborhood, they are attempting to reach out to Marcy-Holmes.
If the mural is approved, actual installation would not start until the spring of 2012.
The Student Neighborhood Liaisons are currently taking submissions for photograph or drawing of something that could be on the mural — whatever the artist thinks represents the community.
The mural designs can come from all students, even ones that do not live in the neighborhoods.
“It will excite people to be part of this project,” Pusch said. “Hopefully this will bring awareness they they are a part of a community that needs each other.”
UMN students have traveled to Florida colleges to collaborate with students on various projects.
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