By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Classen Ten Penn Neighborhood Association will celebrate a new mural, titled Plains Pioneers, now gracing the west side of the McKinley Park Community Center at 1300 N. McKinley in Oklahoma City. The Mural Reveal Party will take place during its Dia Del Nino Festival this month.
Dia Del Nino, or Children’s Day, is celebrated on April 30 as a tribute to children in Mexico. The free public event will take place from 5 – 7 p.m.
Festivities will include games for kids, a photo booth in front of the mural, and free food including popcorn, pizza, and elote-Mexican grilled corn.
Local artists and CTP residents Amanda Zoey and Tessa Raven began work on the mural on March 1.
After receiving a grant from the OKC Strong Neighborhoods Initiative in the spring of 2016, Classen Ten Penn began accepting proposals for a mural to be created on the Community Center.
“Our beloved neighborhood park building is sometimes adorned with unwelcoming images and phrases that contribute to the blight of the neighborhood and a perception that the neighborhood is unsafe,” said Jessica Thompson, President of Classen Ten Penn Neighborhood Association.
Established in the early 1900s along the interurban streetcar lines, the Classen Ten Penn district is bordered by Classen Boulevard, 10th Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, and the 16th Street Plaza District, one of OKC’s thriving arts and entertainment areas.
“This is not just an art project, but a community building event that will curb vandalism, create a great space to attract neighbors, and really give residents an opportunity to be a part of something bigger,” Thompson added.
Three finalists were selected by community members and stakeholders of the neighborhood. The final mural project was voted upon by members of the neighborhood at the annual Classen Ten Penn Festival last June.
“From a revitalization perspective, because this mural was chosen by neighbors, their sense of ownership, safety and pride will be elevated,” said Shannon Entz, Senior Planner at the City of Oklahoma City and project manager for the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative. “This mural along with the upcoming park improvements will make McKinley Park an even greater amenity and asset for nearby properties and potentially attract new families to Classen Ten Penn.
” The City of Oklahoma City Parks Commission, Arts Commission, Parks Department, and Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs were deeply involved in offering their guidance and final approvals on the project.
“As residents of Classen Ten Penn it is a dream of ours to create a public art piece to leave a personal mark on our home,” Zoey and Raven said in a statement. “Together we are proposing a collaborative mural that will cover the west side of the community center. ‘Plains Pioneers’ is a piece that embodies the existing nature and spirit of the community that also includes an interactive element that will allow the neighbors to be a part of the symbolic process of creating its future.”
The artists continued, “The male figure is wearing rainclouds to represent our storm seasons, along with eyes that represent the future and handprints that symbolize the mark of our residents. He is made of wood because he is rooted to his home and wears a honeycomb beard to show the diligence and effort of community.
“The female figure is wearing a wreath of flowers you would find in our neighborhood gardens such as mistletoe, cone flower, lantana and roses. Her eye has several different butterfly wings coming from the corners signifying the transformations the neighborhood has seen throughout the years. The wings on her back symbolize protection as she sits in a nest that signifies security and comfort.”
Summarizing the mural Zoey and Raven stated, “Together, the two figures offer a place for the viewer to come and be a part of their world. The audience will be able to interact by standing in the middle of the crossed hands as though they came from their world and are being released or nudged back into reality. The eyes of each figure are closed to show peace and contentment.”
Art enthusiast, Chazzi Davis, who works for the Curbside Chronicle, noticed the colorful creation while passing by and stopped to grab a photograph. “I spend part of everyday taking pics, then go sell magazines to pay my bills,” Davis said. “I am enjoying it and hoping to sell my stuff through my website. That’s the fun and relaxing part, I just drive and take pics. I go with the flow and let the creative thing take over. Sometime I get one that works.”
The public is invited to join Classen Ten Penn in celebrating the completion of the mural at McKinley Park from 5 – 7 p.m. on April 30.