Mesa has been feeling the mural love. Just last month, international street artist El Mac (Miles “Mac” MacGregor) completed a two-story mural at Mesa Arts Center. And recently, local artists worked with residents at Park Village Apartments near University and Mesa drives to design and paint murals in a trio of common areas.
Isaac Caruso worked poolside with several children living at the complex in early April, painting broad colorful stripes along a freestanding wall. Lauren Lee sat perched on a stool, painting bright flowers on a wall inside the clubhouse. And David Osowski worked atop a ladder on an exterior wall across the street from Pioneer Park, which was dedicated in 1956.
Working on this particular mural has been especially meaningful for Osowski. “I grew up in this neighborhood, and I used to play in this park,” he says. The apartment complex is located at 226 North Hobson Street. Osowski and Caruso made finishing touches to their murals the following weekend.
The murals are part of a project called “Paint the Village!,” initiated through Urban Village, which works to make apartment complexes into thriving communities through resident engagement, community resources, and place-making activities such as creating murals.
It’s the brainchild of OpenPath Investments, which describes itself as a social-impact real-estate firm. Sara Mossman, program director for Urban Village, says that community mural-painting can help build connections between locals.
Before the artists started, residents were polled about what types of imagery they wanted to see in their community. Bright colors and flowers were popular choices, Osowski says. But he ended up going with a central figure surrounded by big blocks of color, which was easy for kids to paint. Caruso had kids paint a trio of bright stripes, then added his own image of Hedwig, an owl from the Harry Potter book and film series.
This isn’t the first time these artists have painted murals in Mesa. Caruso painted a roadrunner and bobcat at a corporate center called Dana Park in 2014 as part of a multi-city public art project called IN FLUX. Lee painted a mural along Main Street in 2015, which pays homage to the city’s founding. And Osowski recently painted an exterior wall at the event venue Tre Bella with a soft floral pattern that wedding parties sometimes use as a photo backdrop.
Although only residents or their guests can see the Lee and Caruso murals, Osowski’s piece is plainly visible from the street running along the north side of Pioneer Park.
“Many people have forgotten what a true sense of community feels like,” Mossman says. “We’re providing a framework and hopefully the inspiration for culture change to emerge from the ground up.”