Amidst the panic and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, Oakhurst residents have come together to paint a mural representing their strength in unity. Members of the community painted seven large oak trees along the wall of a building on the corner of East Lake and Park Place. Green handprints from community members make up the leaves of the trees and the phrase, “Together we are strong as an oak” surrounded by a rainbow covers the right side of the wall.
Oakhurst resident, Amy Bryant, organized the mural and created the design in collaboration with her neighbors, Erica Newcomb and Chrissie Kallio.
“I used to drive past that wall everyday thinking to myself ‘that looks horrible’. The graffiti was everywhere and what looked worse than the graffiti is that they were covering it up with a different color paint than what was on the wall so it just looks awful,” Bryant said. “One day I thought to myself that it would be really nice to have a beautiful mural there to see everyday.”
From there, the idea progressed and Bryant enlisted the help of Newcomb, who she referred to as ‘the resident artist’ because of her arts undergraduate degree. Newcomb started to build off Bryant’s original idea of having a single oak tree and found a design that would fill up the wall and allow members of the community to contribute.
“The cool thing was we really discovered how much art people have in them. It was a great way to get kids involved and out of the house and parents doing something different,” Newcomb said.
Bryant wanted the mural to be a community project from the beginning and asked the neighborhood if they were satisfied with the design idea before she started painting it. She then began asking people to sign-up for different time slots to make sure people could paint while safely social distancing and asked for each family to bring their own brushes. Over 20 families ended up contributing.
“When I planned it, I made a sign-up sheet on groupme and had each family signed up for a different time to comply with social distancing, but then, since the wall became so long, we could have two or three families working on it at a time safely,” Bryant said.
The initial idea continued to evolve as more people got involved and colorful details began to bloom from every corner. Connor Willingham started the details by painting grass below the trees which prompted Pam Ditmer to decide to paint flowers. Others added birds, bees and butterflies.
“It’s still evolving and there still could be more things added in as we go which I think is so exciting,” Bryant said. “It’s really a living wall and a living tribute to our neighborhood and the creativity and engagement that exists here. I’m excited to see where else it goes.”
Bryant immediately began seeing positive reaction from the community as people drove by and walked by complimenting and thanking the muralists for their artwork.
“People from all backgrounds and all walks of life have walked by and exhibited a really positive sense of pride,” Bryant said. “It’s really been a great team effort. It’s not one person’s wall or one person’s creation, it’s really our neighborhood’s gift to ourselves.”