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Rebecca Van Ornam's sketch for the Nebraska Mural

 

The mural celebrates the 150th anniversary of Nebraska and its long held ties with South Omaha. The artists visited towns across Nebraska and met with South Omaha residents to collect stories to populate the narrative of the mural. A design team made up of 5 artists, 2 apprentices, and 5 volunteers worked together to create the design that illustrated the connections between folks across Nebraska to South Omaha. The mural was then projected on the West wall of the Supermercado Nuestra Familia on 36th and Q streets. The neighborhood was then invited to celebrate the inaugural paint strokes with the artists during a community paint day in which all were invited to help paint the mural. The artists then worked for another 10 weeks to complete the 3,600 sqft mural depicting the journey of Nebraskan ranchers into South Omaha. The mural is full of personal stories and anecdotes heard from individuals, as well as overarching themes of journey, struggle, hard work, and kinship. The artists practiced new painting techniques that allowed for many people to work seamlessly together to create a cohesive mural, using solid color underpainting and glazes of shadow and highlight to make the flat shapes come to life quickly. The apprentices on the project learned how to prepare the surface of the wall, design with the community at the center, practice good employee habits, work safely, and paint in an efficient and beautiful manner. When the mural was complete, a large dedication ceremony was held on site. A live band played latin and pop music, the artists presented the mural, and thanked our sponsors. Everyone then enjoyed refreshments, cake, and good company as we celebrated our grand accomplishment.
Our project was full of many beautiful stories. For instance, our apprentice Alondra Gonzalez, was a high school student at North High School and she worked with during her summer break. We gave her rides to and from the job site and we really got to know her throughout this project. She had been going through difficult family problems and her mom was unable to find work. Alondra was able to help support herself and her mom, while thoroughly enjoying her summer job, and learning new job skills. She is now enrolled with as a student in the Kent Bellows Studio under the mentorship of one of our artists, Hugo Zamorano. We hope to continue to foster this relationship with her, and help her to grow her skills and portfolio as an artist. We also had a great time working with a volunteer named Robert Haught that came to paint everyday for the first month or so. He was so excited to be part of a large mural project. He had been wanting to paint murals in Omaha since the 70's, but was busy with his job running his own residential painting company. We enjoyed his enthusiasm to help with every aspect of the work, he was even happy to clean brushes at the end of the day. Finally, the overall experience of painting the mural on the side of a busy grocery store was different than any of our other projects. Everyday we had dozens of people stop to look at our progress, tell us stories of their lives in South Omaha. We had visitors from Western Nebraska and even Chicago that could see themselves and their stories in the mural. One part of our mural that received a lot of attention was the depiction of the inside of a meat packing plant. Many people remembered times in their lives working grueling hours doing difficult labor in the packing plants. Men and women alike were glad to see their hard work honored and respected in such a way. This mural really seemed to touch a lot of people in South Omaha, they could really relate to the stories we were telling, and we hope that its presence will continue the conversation about the importance of South Omaha in our history as a state.

above are photos of our compltion celebration

para información en español

We have more up to date information on our Nebraska Mural Facebook page!

Here are Photos of our community meetings, community paint day and progress over the summer:

Here is some of our press coverage:

Omaha World Herald announced our Nebraska Mural Community Paint Day here.  

KMTV news covered our Nebraska Mural community paint day HERE.

 

The Nebraska Mural Concept

Over the past four summers, The South Omaha Mural Project has worked to memorialize the unique history of South Omaha through creating large public art works on buildings in historic neighborhoods.  Our murals involve hundreds of people from each neighborhood we work in. We hold many community meetings in which interested neighbors can learn about the project, share memories, help design, and even paint on the murals. The projects are a great way to bring neighborhoods together to build fellowship and lasting community pride.

We wanted to create a mural for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of Nebraska. We have been chosen to be an official project of the Nebraska Statehood Board. This mural give us a chance to explore and depict the relationship South Omaha had with the rest of Nebraska. Our historian Gary Kastrick, has spent many years collecting interviews with his South O high school students about the frequent visits Nebraska farmers made to South Omaha. Their trips would primarily be for bringing in their livestock, but would turn into a mini vacation, as they visited the flourishing South O business district to go shopping, see a film, or get a new haircut. Many Nebraskans depended on the South Omaha stockyards and economy to provide for their families. Just so, many South Omahans depended on the flow of livestock from farmers to make a living for their families. Although much has changed since the hay day of the stockyards, the people in the city still rely on our farmers for food and the city is still a great place for our rural neighbors to visit.  This long held relationship between the city and the country is a great story to illustrate on the wall of a prominent grocery store in South Omaha, such as the Super Mercado Nuestra Familia.

 

Principal Artists:

Lead Artist Rebecca Van Ornam, and supporting artists: Richard Harrison, Mike Giron and Hugo Zamorano are leading the project.

Apprentice Program

 Our apprentice muralists have learned how to create a public community-based mural from start to finish. They are expected to attend community design workshops, participate in the sketching and designing process, and help paint the mural on the wall.

 We love growing our team of muralists by adding individuals that are goal oriented and collaborative. Here are our chosen artists for this mural project:

 Alondra Gonzalez,

currently a Junior at Omaha North High has worked with us on a mural for a day care already.  She sent us this painting of a tiger she did as one of her portfolio images.

Rigoberto Barajas-Rivera,

who graduated recently from Northwest High School and did work with us on the Magic City Mural.  This is a painting he did.

The first week of July we visited towns across Nebraska to collect stories and memories about what makes the state special in general and especially about the way people in the small towns visited South Omaha for trading livestock and all the novelties of visiting a larger city.  In this photo we set up a tent by the mural Rebecca painted in Murdock on their museum.  You can learn more about that here.   The time traveling the state really reminded us how special the folks in Nebraska are.  We painted some of the kids faces and talked to a lot of friends!

We are happy to have been accepted as an official project of the Celebrating Nebraska Statehood Board, learn more about that HERE

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The Nebraska Mural has received funding from the Douglas County Visitor Improvement Fund, the Nebraska Arts Council, The Omaha Mayor’s Grant, and SpartanNash. SpartanNash (SPTN) operates Supermercado Nuestra Familia, Family Fare, No Frills, Sunmart, and Family Fresh Supermarkets in Nebraska in addition to retail in other states and food distribution centers across the country.  Duke Aerial, and Sherwin-Williams helped with "in kind donations" and we always appreciate their help.

We appreciate Cleanwash Laundry Systems for their ongoing support of our work.  They care about South Omaha!

We have produced our South Omaha Mural Projects working in partnership and with support from the South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance and the South Omaha Business Association who make South Omaha a wonderful place to live and work!

Please call Rebecca Van Ornam with any questions (402)490-1400

Keep up to date with our project and revised schedules at our Nebraska Mural Facebook Page