For the next few months, at least, visitors emerging from the BOK Center will have something more appealing to look at than a parking lot, as a local youth group is nearing completion of a mural on the wall of a building that faces the arena.
Approximately a dozen students involved in Phoenix Rising, a program of the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau and Tulsa Public Schools, are working on the mural, which is based on the U2 song "Where the Streets Have No Name." The students are hoping to complete their work by Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 17 with a mural that depicts a message of hope and unity.
Bob Eggleston -- a partner in the One Developers LLC firm that is building the planned $80 million One Place multi-use development on the block bounded by 2nd Street, Cheyenne Avenue, 3rd Street and Denver Avenue -- was approached by a representative of Phoenix Rising several months ago and gave his permission for the program to use one of the exterior walls of his company's headquarters at 206 S. Cheyenne Ave. for the project.
Eggleston, whose firm plans on demolishing the building in April to make way for the new development, said he had no reservations about turning over a wall to the program.
"It's such a great cause," he said. "We get lots of interest from people wanting to put signs up advertising to the people leaving the BOK Center, but we knew this was pretty much the right thing to do. We're very supportive of it. We're very pleased to help them get off the ground."
Students in Phoenix Rising -- an organization that handles students involved in the juvenile justice system who have not been successful in traditional public schools --completed a mural on a wall at the Brady Arts District's Mathews Warehouse earlier this year with the help of local artist Cristi Richardville, according to Mary Kevin McNamara, the program's director. McNamara said when she turned to the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa for help on the latest mural, that organization's Amber Tait quickly enlisted Richardville to help again.
Eggleston had asked the group to consider painting a mural based on the U2 song. The native of England had served as construction director for the BOK Center, and he said that song's title had stuck in his head as a fitting theme for downtown as the arena was being built.
"It was kind of a forgotten area, and we were trying to make downtown relevant again," he said.
When Eggleston suggested the theme to go with the mural, Brittany Sawyer, the spokeswoman for One Place LLC, began researching the song that was written by U2's Bono and discovered it had even more relevance to Tulsa. Eggleston said Sawyer's research revealed that Bono had written it in response to the sharp divisions he grew up with in his homeland between Catholics and Protestants, rich and poor. Many of the same issues exist in Tulsa, he believes, where many residents too often are burdened by perceptions of the part of town they live in -- north Tulsa, east Tulsa, south Tulsa, midtown, etc.
"We pitched this idea to the Phoenix Rising people, and they thought it was a great idea," Eggleston said.
Now, Eggleston said, he views the mural project -- and its impending destruction when the building is demolished this spring -- much like the graffiti that covered the Berlin Wall before it came tumbling down beginning in 1989.
Phoenix Rising students began work on the mural at the beginning of November, McNamara said, after Richardville met with them and discussed their ideas for the work. The artist and her assistant completed a sketch of the mural, and students have been at work since them outlining it on the west wall of the building.
McNamara said the students have dedicated the project to Qualynn Dabney, a 14-year-old Phoenix Rising student who was shot to death by a store clerk during an attempted armed robbery of a north Tulsa convenience store in September. Dabney had been deeply involved in the painting of the Mathews Warehouse mural.
"The kids loved that," McNamara said of the idea of creating the mural in his honor. "They thought it was a great way to remember him."
McNamara said work on the project has slowed over the past few weeks because of cold weather, but she anticipated that students would resume their work this week -- just in time to finish it by Jan. 17.
"They absolutely love doing this, primarily because these are kids who do their best with hands-on projects," she said. "Typically, they have not had the opportunity to do something like this before, which a lot of people are going to see. To do something like this with a lot of exposure, they love it."
McNamara said the students respond well to Richardville's direction. She said the artist gives the students enough structure so that the project moves forward but also enough freedom so that they can indulge their creativity.
She also credited the Arts and Humanities Council's Tait for making the project a reality.
McNamara said she hopes the completion of the mural will give Phoenix Rising students a sense of accomplishment that few of them previously have experienced.
"My hope is that they will, first and foremost, feel good about doing something for our community and that they will feel good that they were selected," she said, adding that she also hopes students realize they can always benefit from spending time with people like Richardville and her assistant, as well as the Phoenix Rising staff. "The opportunity for them to succeed at something is really important."
Share this article: