A faded, cracked eyesore and graffiti magnet, the back wall of the old Safeway grocery building, now owned by Nash-Finch Company, stirred Sarah to plan a mural using vegetable and fruit images derived from playing cards her boss had given to her as an inspirational gift. Sara pitched the idea to the Leavenworth Neighborhood association and the Ford Birth Sight Neighborhood Association, who became very excited and eventually became winners of two Omaha Mayor’s Grant awards helping to fund the project. Additional funding comes from Mutual of Omaha and Nash-Finch, which has been in the news lately for acquiring the No Frills and the Bag and Save groceries in Nebraska.
Sara contacted local artists Richard Harrison and Mike Girón. Richard, owner of the 12-year-old business, A<em> Midsummer’s Mural</em>, often collaborates with Mike, a mural artist and college professor. (Their work can be seen at www.amidsummersmural.com and www.mikegiron.com.) Richard’s long-time efforts lead to many call-backs and referrals. Together with artist, and Bemis Center intern, Rebecca Harrison, they have revitalized churches, nursing facilities, hospitals, homes, restaurants and other businesses. These artists do not shy away from large scale projects, such as the 30’x80′ Schmitt Music store mural on 72nd and Dodge.
Mike and Richard were looking for ways to use their talents to promote community gardening and food production. The neighborhood associations and Sara Tracey and Urban Village were all involved in community gardening projects as well and saw the mural as connected to this passion.
Richard noticed that the Avanza grocery store incorporated papel picado (traditional Mexican cut paper art) in their brightly-colored interior decor and suggested bringing the theme into the mural design. The papel picado models for the mural were made by teacher Bridget Greer’s 6th grade class during a workshop with visiting artist, Linda Garcia. The children loved learning about the history of the art form and are excited to see their colorful artwork on a building that is a block long! Hopefully the experience will plant seeds of hope and imagination in their lives, helping them to see that they can do big things!
With his Cuban heritage, Mike could not resist placing representatives of the tropical produce Avanza offers, which are so exotic to the average Omahan, in the flow of organic forms drifting along the mural wall. The latest idea is to have information regarding some of the fruit and vegetable lettered onto the mural.
They used help from Mike’s children, Rhianna and Noah Giron, as well as Tim Williams, Joe VanOrnham, and a local high school student named Leovardo. They purchased 46 gallons of paint for the project. They still have a little left over, mostly mixed into little mason jars. Seed paint for whatever the next project brings. Richard and Mike are working on many projects in Omaha in homes, businesses, churches and schools. They are especially working towards a growing Leavenworth Street mural art corridor. Mike, who lives in Midtown, recently completed murals on Jim’s Seek and Save Antiques and Exclusive Honda on Leavenworth.
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