New artwork shares story of Topeka’s Oakland neighborhood

People were invited to submit old photos, which were turned into tiles that are part of a mosaic on the Our Lady of Guadalupe School building.
Published: Jun. 21, 2023 at 6:40 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Artist Jamie Colon believes art is a way to spark face-to-face conversation and share stories.

His new artwork in Topeka’s Oakland neighborhood aims to tell the story of the area where he grew up and the school that shaped him.

Colon is putting together a community mosaic on the walls of the Our Lady of Guadalupe school building, 216 NE Branner.

Colon is known for his mural creations around the Capital City, but he said he wanted to do something different for this project. His goal was something that would share the history of the people who built the community, and create conversations to keep those stories alive and moving forward.

Organizers invited people in the neighborhood to submit old photos, which they turned into tiles. Colon and others repainted the building in bright colors, and he’s now placing those tiles among colorful glass pieces.

He hopes people will visit the wall, share stories, and re-discover their history.

“There’s a ton of neighborhoods that have these stories, but it stays in the neighborhood. I want them to get out. Once you know more about Topeka, you have a better understanding of where you live at,” Colon said. “When we talk about our Lady of Guadalupe, the only thing (people) know is the Fiesta. But there are many other things that happen here and so this is a good way to broadcast those things out.”

Colon said it’s been especially meaningful to see so many people coming to view the project while it’s been in progress. He said several generations of families will visit and verbally share the stories behind the photos. He said he appreciates the verbal storytelling, as opposed to the social media interactions that seem to be more common these days.

Colon hopes to have most of the project done in time for the 90th annual Fiesta Topeka coming up July 18th through the 22nd.

Our Lady of Guadalupe merged its school with Sacred Heart several years ago to form Holy Family Catholic School. The OLG building is still used for Sunday school, camps and other lessons.