Contributed by Michelle Overstreet
Earlier this spring, Wasilla Mayor, Bert Cottle, mentioned that he would like to find a solution to the graffiti around the tunnel at Newcomb Park, going under the Parks Highway from Wasilla Lake to Railroad Avenue. He invited young artists from MY House to help out, saying “I’ll buy the paint if they will do the work”.
MY House board member and local artist, Holly Gittlien, led the project, having always wanted to participate in a community mural. MY House outreach coordinator, Jay Dagenhart, and Fiend2Clean team leader, Kerby Kraus, rented a paint sprayer and using a generator to power it, spent an afternoon creating a blank canvas using a mold killing paint to cover the existing graffiti. Then the artistic team took over.
The goal of the project, chosen by the youth, was to reflect the beauty of Alaska, but also offer a sense of inclusion that everyone matters and love is all around us. And then a quote, one that has become a theme at the MY House drop in center: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Ghandi.
The youth involved drew an initial design, which grew as the team of artists working on the project grew. The painting was an evolution, with each individual bringing something of their own to the wall, conveying emotion and movement, and garnering interest from those traveling the bike path that travels along it. Artists used rainy days to make stencils that would clearly define bright leaves on the trees, four leaf clover and birds. With Facebook progress reports, and a “Honk if you love it!” moniker, they used the sunny days to beautify what was once dull and profane. Motivated by the honking horns, including the Alaska Railroad trains, the homeless youth created a beautiful work of art.
This was the first community art project for all youth involved, but they hope it won’t be the last. Andrea Warren said “It’s an amazing feeling to work with a team and then when you stand back you can see the beauty you created. I loved it”. When the project is complete, the City of Wasilla will apply a coat of graffiti-proof sealant to protect it from vandalism and weather damage.