The Bronx Wash is a cement covered arroyo that is an uninviting eyesore in the Northwest Neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona that cuts off access from the south to Mansfield Park. The goal of the Bronx Wash Mural Project is to encourage a sense of pride and ownership in the area, to reconnect the neighborhood and involve local residents in beautifying this shared space.
On July 11, 2009 more than 25 Northwest Neighborhood participated in the Bronx Wash Mural Community Paint Day. The project involved a prior series of design workshops for youth and adults at the Northwest Neighborhood Center led by community artist Michael B. Schwartz (www.michaelbschwartz.com) where ideas were brainstormed and combined through dialogue, drawing and journaling. The process fostered understanding and trust among a diverse group of neighborhood residents and they achieved a final design which came alive during a series of community paint days.
Participants shared food and stories as they painted. It's the first time I've gotten to know other people in my neighborhood!” said Micaya. Susan rode her bike to the event and said “It was amazing to watch the interaction of a group of neighbors coming together to beautify a barren space.” A self-proclaimed "tagger" gave the mural a thorough review and after following the outline of the images, said: "I like it. I really like the message that the mural gives to the neighborhood." Bob who lives a few blocks away “enjoyed watching people's reactions and seeing the mural slowly appear”. Hoola–hoops, pizza and drinks were donated to the event and added to the festive atmosphere. “I was delighted by the number of neighbors who wandered by and got involved”, writes Judith Anderson, Senior Community Organizer with project funder PRO Neighborhoods. “Initially I came to support the grantee group but immediately was drawn into the pleasure of the art and the socializing.”
On July 17 a Youth Paint Day was held for 25 youth. The kids really enjoy mixing colors, and a chance to leave their mark on the community in a positive way. Just as the summer heat began to become unbearable, a Tucson Fire Department aerial ladder truck rolled in to hose down all the kids – a welcome treat. The firefighters assembled a makeshift waterfall to the delight of everyone who got wet.
After the successful community paint days lead artist Michael Schwartz, assistants continued to work on the mural through the hot summer months. Dozens of neighbors stopped and shared stories, asked questions, brought cool drinks and admired the work.
The project draws to a close with a final Community Paint Day on September 11 from 4:00pm to sundown at 4th Avenue and Linden. This commemorates National Day of Service and Remembrance, and will give us a time to celebrate our work. Plans for the final mural unveiling will be posted to http://bronxwashmuralproject.blogspot.com.