The 20’ x 60’ mural honors veterans who bravely fought to protect our freedom and was the vision of Omaha Artist Richard Harrison, of A Midsummer's Mural, who together with Mike Giron, of M. Giron Artworks, has been pursuing opportunities to beautify Leavenworth Street with the addition of colorful murals. Richard sketched the idea of a mural that evokes freedom by picturing a boy on a tire swing in front of a 60' long tree filled with rays of sunshine. The mural has text that says "thanks to those who protect our freedom" and the word freedom is in huge translucent letters that fill the wall. Richard took the design to the VFW and told them that he would try to raise the funds to create the mural at no expense to them. Thanks to all the sponsors that goal was achieved.
The mural was sponsored with generous funding from the Leavenworth Neighborhood Association, the Mutual of Omaha Foundation, The Nebraska Arts Council, and members of St. Andrew's United Methodist Church, who had a big pancake breakfast with the artists flipping pancakes.
Artists who worked on the painting include Richard Harrison, Mike Giron Rebecca Harrison, Jeremiah Neal, Pam Conyers-Hinson, Eddith Buis, Larry Lentz, and the students of the Kent Bellows Art Studio and Center for the Arts. Most of the Kent Bellows students were able to work on it for at least a few hours.
The artists met twice with students from Jackson Elementary School (part of their Completely Kids Summer program) to use the mural project as a catalyst for learning. Students met the artists on Tuesday, July 23, at 9:30 a.m. at the VFW mural site to discuss what freedom means to different people. The kids were able to create a mural of their own that expresses what freedom means to them. The 8'x20' mural they did will be on display at the VFW event August 6th and may find a home on the walls of the VFW or Jackson School. The next day, Wednesday, at 9:30 a.m. several veterans visited the students at their school to talk about what freedom means to them and the choices they made in their lives to help protect our freedom. The students were absolutely absorbed in the stories from the veterans who spoke about the need to work hard in school and stay away from gangs as well as told stories about what it's like to drive a tank or how scary it is to camp out with the enemy all around you. The kids were very appreciative of the veterans who included Thomas Parker, Kenny McDonald and Jeremiah Neal.
Richard, Mike, and Rebecca, and others completed the mural on the outside of the Avanza grocery store on Park and Leavenworth last Summer. The wall has paintings of giant fruits, vegetables and crafts made by the Jackson Elementary School children. Since then these three artists (and some others) have completed murals that cover most of the interior walls of the Avanza store. If you visit you will see a recreation of old style buildings from a south of the border town. The store will celebrate their new renovations on August 4th.
Mike Giron has also designed a mural for the west side of Midwest Photo Pro on 4314 Leavenworth and has begun a kick starter fund raiser to support the creation of that mural. The celebration of the VFW mural will include a sort of kick off for the new mural project.
Benson Plant Rescue has recently received funding from a Mayor's Grant for this team of artists to do giant floral mural on their new location at 7224 Maple. As soon as the design receives final approval from the Nebraska Arts Council, the mural work will go ahead. The project will be lead by Mike Giron and styled on his previous mural on the Maria Bonita restaurant on South 24th Street.