The vibrant colors of a nearly completed mural now cover the three outside walls of a bathroom in the center of McNamara Park.
Within the design is a community-rooted message – one of peace and unity.
The mural at McNamara Park is a result of the combined efforts of a UC Merced art class, city officials, the Merced Organizing Project, members of the Yosemite Leadership Program and community residents.
The groups have been painting for a little more than a month and planned to have most of the mural completed by the end of Saturday.
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One of the walls is being marked with a young girl blowing bubbles. Each of the bubbles is filled with an image of a prominent historical figure. The second wall will feature “campesinos,” or farmworkers, representating the heavy agricultural presence in the area.
The third wall features an eagle crushing handguns in its talons in an anti-violence statement – a message requested by south Merced residents.
Richard Gomez, a UC Merced arts professor with the Global Arts Studies Program, said the groups spent hours surveying homes in the park’s surrounding area to find out what residents wanted to see on the walls of their community park. Gomez said 100 percent of those surveyed wanted a message that would promote safer neighborhoods.
“With this project, we wanted to build a bridge between UC Merced and the community,” Gomez said. “The city of Merced was instrumental in making this happen.”
Jesse Chakrin, a ranger with the National Park Service and director of the Wilderness Education Center at UC Merced, said the mural project also has helped students and residents connect with the community’s green spaces.
“Of course, we were hoping people would come out to participate, but it’s really cool to see how much they like it,” Chakrin said.
“There’s a deep emotional connection to this park,” he added. “We want to get it to what people want to see.”
Pastor Sterling Kyle of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Merced visited the mural on Saturday morning with some members of his church.
Kyle said the mural is significant because of how it has brought people of diverse backgrounds together. “We’ve got the Hmong, Latino and African American communities out here, and that’s what we need – unity,” he said.
Kyle and his group meet at the park every first Saturday of the month for community prayer. “We come out to pray for our community, for all the killings going on, and for the success of this (mural) project,” he said.