While driving around I noticed a colorful art project on the southeast corner of ninth street and Minnesota near the canal route and the KU Med Center. Naturally, I had to return with my camera to take some photographs. I had no idea this was connected to a much larger art project and has a bit of a connection to another – the Redbud Trail “pause points.”
The 9th street redevelopment project cost about $3.5 million. The project took about three years to complete and included input from community leaders, youth, and many neighborhood associations. According to the creators, “(It) honors the past, present and future and celebrates 9th street as a place of significant cultural heritage.”
Artist Ellamonique Baccus worked as a consultant for the project. Symbols in the sidewalk connect all the pieces. It starts with painted columns under the Canal Route, then to a plaza at Ninth and Minnesota. It moves east to a Bus Stop on 9th and Grove and ends with a mural just west of Hillside.
Painted columns under the Canal Route 9th & Canal Route
Kwanzaa Plaza 9th & Minnesota
Janice Burdine Thacker created the murals meant to teach the principles of Kwanzaa.
The 7 principles are determination, cooperative economics, creativity, unity, faith, purpose, collective work and responsibility
Bus Stop 9th & Grove
The walls feature the ten symbols representing community values. Those values were picked by the neighborhood kids and various neighborhood associations (see below). The floor displays the symbol for knowledge. There is also a free library inside.
Cultivating the Seeds of Our Future 9th Street, west of Hillside
The mural is supposed to represent the cycle of life from birth (the seed) to an older female. Interesting note: The Tuskegee Airman is modeled after Donald Jackson, a Wichita veterinarian and Tuskegee Airman.
More than 100 community members collaborated with Baccus by painting and placing tiles. She told KSN, “The way I designed this mural is so that community members could participate in helping to paint it,”
According to the information at Kwanzaa plaza the mural “prepares for the future by cultivating the growth of our children so that they have both “roots” (connections to where they were born) and “wings” to accomplish things.”
Embedded in the sidewalks are Adinkra symbols. West African symbols that describe the ten values shared by local youth and the neighborhood associations.
Learning from the past
Unity in diversity
Tina Murano did the tile work with community members at the plaza and the Seeds mural. The benches were built using bricks from Grove Street which was refurbished as part of this project.
Murano also worked on the Redbud Trail “pause point” at 9th & Hillside. She told the KUMC newsroom, “The best part is working with community members and the celebration at the end, seeing it all come together.”
I did reach out to Murano and Baccus for comment, but I received no response from either of them. Which is too bad, I would have loved to get their insight on this project.