The Coleman Railroad Bridge Underpass on the city's Eastside recently received a colorful makeover as a two-piece mural called "Dream Peace" was painted on either side of Martin Luther King Drive.
The 70-foot mural was completed by students in the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum's MOSAIC Program, an after-school and weekend arts program for San Antonio youth. Blue Star staff and MOSAIC members as well as City officials gathered at the site on Monday to officially dedicate the mural with a ribbon cutting.
"It's a beautiful thing to see artwork in this community," said Councilman Alan Warrick (D2). "I think art is one of those things that brings us together."
The mural can be seen when driving west down MLK Drive and features the word "dream" painted across the left side of the underpass and "peace" on the right. It was inspired by the theme of this year's MLK March in January, "uniting communities to advance humanity," and was meant to remind those who took part in the March of that mission.
"They are words that I thought embody (Martin Luther King's) revolution," said Elizabeth Samuel, MOSAIC co-lead design artist for the mural and sophomore at Ronald Reagan High School.
The design, she added, incorporates distinct color contrasts so that the words could be seen easily from a distance.
Tanya Helbig, a junior at Earl Warren High School, also served as a co-lead artist for the project.
The District 2 office, EastPoint, and the Department for Culture and Creative Development (DCCD) commissioned the mural. Several students and volunteers, such as Samuel's father, helped paint the mural. The piece took a total of two weeks to paint in December, with three weeks of design planning before starting that work. It was finished just in time for the 2016 MLK March.
Alex Rubio, renowned local muralist and Blue Star’s artist-in-residence, mentored Samuel, Helbig, and their classmates in implementing the mural. Their hard work and collaboration, he said, made the piece a success.
"Their talent, their skill, their dedication is evident today and evident in all the pieces of public art that we have across our city," he said.
Felix Padrón, DCCD executive director, announced that the City has commissioned the MOSAIC program to complete the other side of the underpass, for eastbound traffic, this year. Samuel and Helbig will co-lead artists again on the coming project.
The "Dream Peace" mural along with others like it in the area have been funded by a $100,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) that was awarded to the EastPoint Promise Zone Artist Residencies Project last July. The Artist Residencies Project was implemented to create community-driven art pieces within the Promise Zone.
"We're very excited about whats happening here locally and also on the national level," Padrón said. "San Antonio is really being recognized in many ways for the good work we're doing."
MOSAIC has completed similar projects in the city before, including a mural called "Neighborhood Landmarks," located at the H-E-B on E. Houston Street, which was completed in 2011 and is the largest handmade tile mural in San Antonio. Popular Eastside landmarks such as the Cameo Theatre, Carver Community Cultural Center, Watson Fine Arts Center, and the Ella Austin Community Center are depicted in the piece.
In 2013, MOSAIC students, in collaboration with San Anto Cultural Arts, painted a 218-foot abstract art mural on the Nolan Street Underpass called "Vortex." The colorful mural is a celebration of friendship and community.
Blue Star staff and City officials said they are looking forward to implementing more public art projects in the area in the future.
"Dream Peace" demonstrates a time of "growth and prosperity" for the largely low-income neighborhoods of the city's Eastside, Warrick said. He believes the mural will help draw more visitors to the area.
"People need more of a reason to come to the Eastside and public art gives them a reason," he said.
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*Top image: (From left) Artist Alex Rubio, Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum Executive Mary Heathcott, MOSAIC co-lead artists Elizabeth Samuel and Tanya Helbig, Councilman Alan Warrick (D2), and DCCD Director Felix Padrón pose as the ribbon is cut. Photo by Scott Ball.