Bioscience student designs mural despite neighborhood backlash

The Lynwood and Willetta alleyway where the proposed murals will go up March 20 if Backstreet Brush can secure neighborhood agreement. Jan. 23, 2020. (Erin Brassey/DD)

Bioscience High School student Sakina Lord gathered her neighbors to share her dream of beautifying the dingy alleyway between Lynwood and Willetta streets bordered by 3rd and Central avenues with colorful murals.

Her love of the murals in the heart of downtown Phoenix sparked the idea to create an alley of murals in her own neighborhood.

“I just really love that feeling of being surrounded by creativity on all sides,” Lord said. “I really want to emulate that somewhere closer to home.”

According to her project’s website, the mission of The Backstreet Brush Project is to connect those in downtown Phoenix through art and create community spaces.

16-year-old Lord hopes that once her project gets off the ground, she and her team can paint alley murals in other downtown neighborhoods.

Although Lord has proven to her neighbors that she is a self-starter through organizing this project as well as a previous alleyway cleanup, she has a mentor for this project.

Courtney Lonergan, cultural anthropologist and strategic group project facilitator, watched Lord grow up and offered to help lead her through the project management process as soon as she heard the idea.

Lonergan explained she saw Lord succeed in this first meeting in bringing people together.

“A healthy neighborhood comes from people knowing each other,” Lonergan said.

Not all of Lord’s neighbors were on board.

An older woman, who did not wish to be named, has lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years. “I think there’s places for murals, and so I’m not supportive of this project,” she said.

The woman believes in maintaining the historical area, but despite her lack of support, she stayed for the entire meeting and heard what Lord had to say.

Some of the main concerns for this project included alley upkeep and what the murals should look like.

But Lord was not disheartened by those who disagreed with her idea. “You’re living, now, in a district that for years has been all about art,” she said. “Support the community you live in.”

At the end the meeting, Lord created teams of neighbors to help make the alley mural a reality including a team to facilitate clean-up and one to educate neighbors about the mural.

Attendees made no solid commitment to approve a mural; however they mutually decided that they wanted to see some form of improvement made to the alley.

This improvement would be seen through the installation of more lights along the alley and more constant alley clean up, according attendees.

If a mural gets approved by the neighborhood homeowners in the future, artists including Thomas “Breeze” Marcus and Chris Freeman also known as “Shaggy” will gather together on March 20 to paint the alleyway. Lord said she hopes to see this as a live painting event ending in a potluck to celebrate the artists.

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