Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bayview Is... mural dedicated

Annette Smith, one of the first to plant flowers on the Quesada Avenue median strip in 2002, beginning a new phase of community involvement in a challenged neighborhood, offered an opening prayer at the post-work gathering near the new “Bayview Is…” mural on Newhall at Bridgeview. Smith offered thanks for the effort underway in the neighborhood, and asked for wisdom and guidance as more and more people get involved in the work.

Dolores Williams, a longtime Newhall Avenue resident, spoke about the importance of community involvement. She can see the “Bayview Is…” mural from her kitchen window, she said, the same window from which she has seen crime and violence. She thanked Joel McClure for quickly covering over the graffiti that all too often would appear on the wall when it was a patchwork of gray paint. She said the mural is a big improvement.

Williams told stories about things she has seen from her window over the years, and about how neighbors have looked after one another. “Watch out your windows,” she advised, “and you might be surprised at what you see.”

Now, Williams has a view from her window of vibrant colors in a radiating sun pattern spanning over one hundred feet in length, and about fifteen feet in height. A series of birds, rendered in white silhouette, rise across the mural, suggesting rebirth and hopefulness. The design is by Malik Seneferu, an artist with deep and ongoing ties to the community.

Mary McClure who, along with husband Joel, is the project manager for the Bridgeview Garden project, helped roll paint onto the Newhall wall under the watchful eyes of the artists. Yesterday, she presented bouquets of flowers to those same artists, and introduced them to the audience as catalysts for change on Newhall.

Heidi Hardin, a Shipyard artist and longtime arts educator with a commitment to youth, the arts and environment, was the first to receive a bouquet. She thanked all those who worked on the project, and pointed out that she and her fellow muralist, Seneferu, were fine artists in addition to the collaborative, community-based work they have become known for. She expressed her personal commitment to advancing the health of families from all different faiths by using her arts in a project she calls the Human Family Tree project.

Malik Seneferu, after thanking Mary for his bouquet, encouraged support for all the arts work happening in the neighborhood, from the Arts Center at the Shipyard to the community-based Gallery 94124. He was moved by the dedication, he said, as he was by MLK Day and the inauguration to follow. In that spirit, he asked for feedback on an image of Obama, his newest artistic accomplishment, which he had brought with him.

Hardin and Seneferu both have a long history of working with at-risk youth, Hardin with her Children’s Mural Program and Think Round, Inc., and Seneferu with the Safe Haven Program of Hunters Point Family. They also possess the rare ability to foster their unique artistic visions while, at the same time, working in collaboration on projects intended to facilitate the expression of diverse voices.

The mural, Bayview’s newest piece of public art, is part of the “Bayview Is…” Campaign and the Bayview Footprints Network of Community-Building Groups. The Campaign is a resident-led effort to provide those with deep roots in Bayview the means to express their own experience of their neighborhood. It involves public art, like the new mural, photographs of residents holding signs with their own descriptions of their experience, and public events.

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