Vibrant Colors Of Oakland Mural Represent Community's Pride

By: Sarah Plake Email
By: Sarah Plake Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A project that took an entire community's help could now serve to keep that community safer.

With just a few brush strokes from each helping hand, the Oakland neighborhood strengthened itself by painting a mural.

Two artists, Maria Guzman and Jamie Colon, reached out to Topeka Arts Connect for the project to create something positive.

Colon painted half of the mural on the street where he grew up on, Lake Street, and hopes the heritage shown in his work develops young artists' abilities, even those to express themselves through graffiti.

"I'd like to harness that in and give them an outlet to take what they're wanting to express and put it on a wall, put up an image that they're proud of, that they cna show to their family, friends, community and say 'I did that.'"

In the center of his painting are his grandparents, Domingo and Antonia Lopez, who were well-known in the Oakland area. He painted a cherub next to his grandmother, which symbolizes the angels that hold up the Virgin of Guadalupe with a strong softness, a quality that represents his grandmother.

The Topeka Police Department thinks the community pride will spread and decrease property crime. Lieutenant Joe Perry works in that division and sees the amount of graffiti in the area. He said in other cities that have murals, all the graffiti is concentrated in other areas - not on the murals. He hopes that observation will hold true for Oakland's mural.

"We've got the community involved in it, so they've got their blood, sweat and tears and they're more protective of it," Perry said. "They're not going to want anyone destroying it. Then it's going to bring people just to look at it. The more people looking at it, that means there's more eyes seeing what's going on in the neighborhood."

The mural vibrant, bright colors as the entryway into Oakland represents the identity of the area's largely Mexican community. But the message doesn't stop there.

The mural in Oakland is definitely a symbol for Latinos, but it also invites all of Topeka to come together as a community.

"Seeing the success and seeing this level of community engagement is somethign that every neighborhood in the city is interested in," Executive Director of Topeka Arts Connect Sarah Frizell said. "It makes it possible to spread this good will and good community relationships."

Maria Guzman created the other half of the mural. Her artwork incorporates two important symbols for Kansans and Mexicans: the sparrow and the eagle on the Mexican Flag. She said she wanted to put both those in to include all of the city's groups.

"It's full of many different types, many different backgrounds, and we want them to know they are more than welcome, and that we hope this represents theem in some way.

The mural is at Northeast Lake and Seward Streets in Topeka's Oakland neighborhood.

Colon hopes to create a mural on more buildings with Topeka Arts Connect throughout the neighborhood.

631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email:
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