California-based mural artist Skye Walker sold his possessions, bought a van, loaded it with paint supplies and took off across the country on a coast-to-coast tour. This week, he landed in Cincinnati’s Lower Price Hill neighborhood.
That all started about a week-and-a-half ago when he connected with Mary Delaney, executive director of Community Matters — a nonprofit that seeks to address the needs of the LPH community and grow opportunities from within.
The mural has unfurled this week on a building next door to Oyler, a k-12 public school and near a popular community park. A cardinal stretches its wings over a golden-hued sun. Evergreen trees peek along the horizon, trailing downward to a firmly-rooted tree, leaves reaching for the horizon.
The painted began Wednesday. On Friday, it’s expected to be finished. To see it come together, Delaney says, has been powerful.
“Our community, we’re a very creative neighborhood. We have a lot of passionate folks around the arts, but we also don’t have a lot of money,” Delaney says. “Murals are very expensive and hard for us to obtain, so to get this opportunity — and the neighborhood has been able to participate in painting — it’s just really powerful to make this happen.”
Partnering with the Santa Maria Youth Development Program, which provides youth in Lower Price Hill with opportunities to develop life skills and participate in healthy recreational activities, 20 neighborhood kids worked alongside Walker to finish the project. As did eight members of “The Collective,” a group of LPH residents passionate about creative outlets in the neighborhood. (Empowering residents to pursue creative aspirations is one that will continue Sept. 23 with Community Matter’s Brunch and Art Show, in which LPH artists will showcase and sell their works.)
“Kids were helping to paint the bottom part of the mural as a tree, and the tree is kind of about our family roots and community,” Delaney says. “The kids are painting the roots and then they’re going to write their names in it.”
The cardinal signifies the power and strength of a bird taking off into flight, a symbol of the youth in the community. It’s a concept that Delaney says was collaborative; she got input from the kids and then Walker pulled together the imagery.
“For it to be a piece of art that was created with the residents, I think folks are going to have so much pride,” she says. “Just being able to see that expression of our neighborhood as a permanent part of the community is just really unique. It’s not something we get to do, ever. It’s just so special to have residents be creating it alongside the artists.”
That’s part of the idea behind the tour — Walker set out to connect with schools, community outreach programs and art programs. Go to Seattle, Austin, Texas, San Diego, and a scattered number of cities across the nation and you’ll find Walker’s work splayed out on the side of buildings. And now, Lower Price Hill has their own piece of the sprawling puzzle, too.