An idea to brighten downtown Overland Park that has been in the works for a few years now has started making its way through the official city approvals process.
Last night, the Friends of the Overland Park Arts Project met to review designs for murals that would be painted in four downtown OP locations, as well as a new sculpture and eight benches covered in mosaic designs.
It was the first of five public review meetings the group behind the proposed public art project will hold before they could tentatively go before the city council for final approval May 20.
Nicole Emanuel, founder of the InterUrban ArtHouse in downtown Overland Park, has been working on the idea to incorporate more public art in the neighborhood for more than four years. With the support of a grant, the group has been holding neighborhood meetings, identifying potential installation locations, and working on designs.
Emanuel has spent decades involved in public art projects, overseeing the creation of more than 20 large murals in locations across the country. In the 1980s, she organized the Balmy Alley murals project in San Francisco’s Mission District, a project that had a similar goal to the one proposed for downtown Overland Park — transforming otherwise bland spaces into the site of appealing work that highlight an area’s history and spirit.
Two of the murals, for instance, would front the alley behind Santa Fe Drive businesses that lead to the Farmers Market and Clocktower Plaza.
“The vision is to paint murals all along the backs of those businesses and make them more interesting,” she said. “You transform the space into something that’s appealing and speaks to teachable community subject matter.”
Emanuel and her group have been working to solidify funding for the project for a few years now. They’ve secured approximately $32,000 in private funds to pay for the mural portion of the master plan. Those funds could pay for not only the work of seven artists to implement their mural designs, but also to prep the walls where they’ll be painted and add a protective coating once they’re finished.
The sculpture and benches — which will be developed in collaboration with Johnson County Developmental Supports Emerging Artists program — would be eligible for public funds since they will be installed on public property.
Assuming the final designs get council approval next month, work would begin on installing the murals May 21 with an expected completion date in June.
“This is a process that has been going on for a few years now, and we’ve really relied on an open community process to get input from the city and county and neighborhood,” Emanuel said. “These next few meetings are the tip of a very deep iceberg.”