Through the magic of conversation between friends of the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, National Young People’s Poet Laureate 2017-2019, Margarita Engle and award-winning illustrator Rafael López of Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed A Neighborhood (by Isabel Campy and Theresa Howell) a public mural has become a reality for a neighborhood in Southeast Fresno, across the street from Roosevelt High School, on the corner of Cedar and Tulare Avenues.
The mural, with its colorful and creative symbolisms of literacy, books and reading, and farming; includes a white Dove of Peace, a motion of reaching for the stars and life-long learning, hands of color reaching out to each other representing unity and peace, a face with new growth and symbol of future leaders, the rich agriculture and diversity of the people, and the community which is the bedrock of the mural.
It took three years for Arne Nixon Center Curator Jennifer Crow, Arne Nixon Center Advocates Board president Arturo Mendoza, assistant Jami Helwig and the rest of the Nixon team to raise the funds and gather enough community support to make the project happen.
Rafael López, community volunteers, students, children, and families were invited to paint the mural and celebrate this creative week-long effort to complete a public art mural for all to enjoy. In preparation for the celebration the city power washed the sidewalks, volunteers cleared trash, pulled weeds, and swept sidewalks from both the site of the mural and across the empty field where the community celebration was to take place.
On Saturday, May 11, the community celebrated the completion of the mural and dedicated it to the neighborhood and to the City of Fresno. Longtime library supporter and friend of the Nixon Center, Fresno County District 3 Supervisor, Sal Quintero honored Jennifer Crow, her team, and an array of community volunteers by presenting them with a Proclamation officially proclaiming Saturday, May 11th, 2019 Arne Nixon Center ‘Maybe Something Beautiful” Community Mural Day in the County of Fresno, followed by Fresno Council Member District 7, Nelson Esparza who also presented Jennifer Crow with a Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of the City of Fresno.
The celebration continued with a community resource fair, free children’s activities, face painting, dinosaur expert and budding paleontologist Samuel Illif, entertainment, an English and Spanish children’s story-time, and complimentary bilingual children’s books illustrated by Rafael López were handed to children and families, some of which made it into the hands of school teachers and school librarians.
Phase two will bring the mural into the 21st century, by using augmented reality (AR) technology and enhancing viewers’ experience. Fresno State students in Dr. Laura Huisinga’s Immersive Design class will add animation and textual elements that can be viewed at the mural site with the use of smart devices or tablet.
Thank you to Jennifer Crow for the dedication and commitment to the Nixon Center and children’s literature and creating something beautiful for the community. Without her vision and dedication overseeing all the details through the Arne Nixon Center and team, the Arne Nixon Center Advocates as well as a plethora of friends, city officials and community supporters this would not have been possible.