Eastview Rec to get a little community flair

submitted photo • Community leaders are helping to create a mural on the northwest and southwest walls of Eastview Recreation Center. The concept of the mural is flowing rivers, particularly the Mekong, Rio Grande and Mississippi, representing the different cultures of the neighborhood. Within the rivers there will be painted fish, which neighbors are asked to help design and paint.

In an effort to turn a drab wall into a community connection, a number of community partners are coming together to create a mural at the Eastview Recreation Center. 

The recreation center, which was used by a private business for a number of years and was closed to the public, came under new management in the spring of 2017. The center now serves as the headquarters of St. Paul Urban Tennis, a high school youth tennis program that teaches leadership skills, as well as skills on the court.

Beyond being used for St. Paul Urban Tennis programming, the recreation center also houses a few city staff members who hold open hours for the community. The new management relationship has opened up a previously unusable recreation center on the East Side, something many East Side community leaders have been working to achieve for a number of years. 

To continue to tie the recreation center back into the community, Betsy Leach, a former District 1 Community Council executive director, along with members of the community, began talking about creating a community mural soon after St. Paul Urban Tennis moved in.

The District 1 Community Council is a part of the St. Paul district council system, a series of neighborhood nonprofits that guide neighborhood development. The District 1 Community Council represents the southeastern neighborhoods of St. Paul — Eastview, Battle Creek, Sun Ray and Highwood Hills. 

At the end of 2017, the council applied for and received a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and began to make plans on how to bring the mural to life. 

According to the council’s grant application, the goal of the mural is to not only add color to an otherwise drab wall, but to activate community involvement and to create community ownership of the recreation center. There are also hopes the mural will deter graffiti, a common problem the recreation center has dealt with.

The mural will be located on the northwest and southwest walls of the center’s gymnasium, on some 400 square feet of space on the lower half of the walls, making it easier for community members to reach and help to paint.


Bringing out 

local artists

Local artist and park advocate Josephine Geiger, who lives just a few blocks from Eastview and raised her son on the playground there, will help create the mural. She’s working with Sarah Udvig, an experienced muralist, who will help provide technical support.

Geiger is mainly a stained glass artist, who has participated in the St. Paul Art Crawl for many years and has won numerous awards for her work.

The plan for the mural is to create an image of flowing rivers. Geiger said she envisioned three rivers coming together — the Rio Grande, Mekong and the Mississippi — choosing the waterways to represent the cultures in the community — Mexican, Hmong and the state they call home. 

While the rivers won’t be labeled specifically, leaving viewers to decide which one is which, the three will blend into one, signifying “becoming one ecosystem,” Geiger explained.

Within the rivers there will be different types of fish. Through a series of community engagement sessions in May and early June, neighbors were able to color fish on a sheet of paper. Geiger said that neighbors can continue to design fish and can pick up the paper fish either at the Eastview Recreation Center or at the District 1 Community Council office, located at 2105 1/2 Old Hudson Road. 

The paper fish will help project leaders know what colors of paint to get. Neighbors can then come back and paint their fish on the wall. Geiger will paint the outlines and the community is asked to do the rest. 

The council has lead efforts on similar projects. In 2016, it helped plan for a mural that was painted at Shamrock Apartments along McKnight Road, just south of Lower Afton Road. The council had a similar idea: create a mural but get the community involved. Udvig created the mural and painted outlines and the community was invited to help paint them in. The District 1 Youth Council also helped lead the effort. 

“What’s exciting about this project is that it allows us to build community in District 1 through creative placemaking,” said District 1 Community Council Executive Director Betsy Mowry Voss. “Our hope is that as residents pass by in the future, they see themselves in the work — through the imagery and, for some, through a piece of the mural that they painted.”

Families and neighbors still have plenty of time to color and design fish for the mural. Geiger said the tentative schedule is to paint the mural during the last week of August and the first week of September, with a dedication or grand opening sometime at the beginning of October.

The Eastview Recreation Center is located at 1675 Fifth St. E. For updates on the project, visit www.district1council.org, or go to the recreation center. 


– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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