“As you can tell, we sit here at the top of the Highlands. You look out the window and you see all the businesses with their landscaping and beautiful flowers, and the road infrastructure is well-maintained. And at that point, it just stopped.”
From our table at the Heine Brothers’ Coffee in the Gardiner Lane Shopping Center, Evelyn DeCuir pointed to the Watterson overpass—a hulking concrete tunnel through which Bardstown Road runs. However, over the course of the past few weeks, its smooth gray interior has been covered in more and more peach and tangerine paint. On top of that base-coat, a profile of a beardless Abraham Lincoln had been left to dry for the day.
On one side is the Highlands, with its bright, colorful foliage and, according to DeCuir, "its road infrastructure is very well-maintained." Immediately on the other side of the overpass is Louisville’s Bon Air neighborhood, and it’s at point that the road-side appearance begins to look a little less kempt. Landscaping is sparse; grass and foliage is browning.
Because of this, the Bon Air Neighborhood Association, of which DeCuir is president, has been working since 2010 to improve the “corridor that runs from the Watterson overpass to Hikes Lane” by upgrading lighting, repairing sidewalks and taking care of common areas and medians, but members of the neighborhood wanted a visual representation of the joining of their community to the Highlands.
This is where the mural comes in. The community-wide painting is being led by Louisville artist, Sabra Crockett, and will specifically reflect the uniqueness of the neighborhood through the inclusion of historic Farmington, Abraham Lincoln, and a variety of changing forms of transportation; moving from left to right to symbolize progress, as well as a connection to other neighborhoods.
It will also feature the slogan, “Wheels and Feet Share the Street.”
The mural is part of a $33,000 grant ($10,000 of which was allocated for the mural) set aside by Metro Councilman Brent for neighborhood improvements with the purpose of not only beautifying the neighborhood, but of improving its economic development.
Then in cooperation with City Solutions and the University of Louisville, the Bon Air Neighborhood Association was able to produce a commercial level report about these intended improvements, which will soon be made available on the association’s website, which they distributed to local businesses.
“They’re already using it as a selling-tool, as in, ‘This is what we are looking forward to happening.’ So the big picture of this mural and these cosmetic improvements is economic development,” said DeCuir.
However, the production of the mural is coming with additional costs, such as the renting of a scissor-lift to reach higher parts of the wall and moisture damage, putting the association behind budget.
They also have experienced an unforeseen pigeon problem which could be another potential cost. Pigeons have nested on ledges at the top of the wall where the mural will go and have polluted the wall. DeCuir and Crocket are currently looking into solutions, including purchasing plastic spikes that would deter the pigeons from roosting; putting them even further behind budget.
Thus, to finish the mural, The Bon Air Neighborhood Association realized they needed to take action. In conjunction with The Kentucky and Southern Indiana Fund for the Arts, they set up a Power to Give page; this is a Kickstarter-esque program that allows visitors to watch a brief video about the purpose of the mural, and donate any dollar amount to the project, each with certain rewards.
The overall budget needed for the completion and maintenance of the mural is $19,922—they have $10,100 covered.
DeCuir again summed up the importance of the project: “We want this mural because we don’t want to continue to view the entrance to our neighborhood as a barrier, or a line where things start and stop. We want more of a gateway.”
Photography courtesy of the Bon Air Neighborhood Association