The Bayview Foundation has brought in artist Jenie Gao to work with students to create a high-profile mural for its fence facing West Washington Ave.
The mural is currently scheduled to be finished later this month. Bayview Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing and supportive services to approximately 300 low-income residents, primarily immigrants and refugees.
The foundation does multiple art projects for their students throughout the year.
“Part of Bayview’s mission is to do art in our education work, and every year we do several community art projects. This summer we’re also doing a basketball court mural,” Alexis London, executive director, said.
For this project, Gao and the students asked the residents to share ideas of what they wanted to see included in the mural.
“We asked the community members to share some designs with me," Gao said. "They showed things from their home, things they first brought with them when they moved to the U.S. We also went around and asked different residents what they wanted to contribute; they showed different textiles and patterns. They are all items that symbolize something important to them. The students used those to create their own unique design."
The residents didn’t have anything specific they wanted in the mural. They provided items that were important to them and “trusted me (Gao) and the kids.”
Gao had two students that served as assistants throughout the projects, and they both have learned a lot from this project as well as other projects provided by Bayview.
“I did not know that you could duplicate these patterns in a method that we’ve use. In the community art school we’ve learned different methods and techniques we could apply to different art projects,” Yimlaj Yang said.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to learn new skills. We learn a lot from doing paint to ceramics,” Tou Lor said.
It was important for Bayview not to have any designs that would reference stereotypes.
“One of goals was not to create any stereotypical symbols or images. I was really to take these artifacts and design elements so the kids could work with them and create original, unique designs that reflected the true value of them community,” London said.
The primary goal of this piece was for an educational opportunity for the students, but Bayview is hoping this piece's prominent location will make more people aware of the foundation.
“This piece in particular is going to be the most public piece of work Bayview has done in its history. This one will grab the most attention. That’s kind of the second purpose of the mural,” London said.
Gao has worked with multiple communities to create art projects, and feels art brings value to a community.
“Public art is a way to transform a space and connect different groups. It’s also a way to create a landmark that everyone in the community identifies with,” she said
London echoed those sentiments, and said the arts bring the many cultures that Bayview houses together.
“The arts are such an important part of our mission, because we’ve got so many people from different cultures and ethnic background, and art really brings people together. We can showcase in a very public way the talent, culture and vibrancy of the Bayview community through arts,” she said.
The students will start working on the basketball court mural next week, and there will be a showcase of both pieces on Friday, Aug. 24 from 1-3 p.m.