Project to cover graffiti-tainted wall with colorful mural begins in Arlington

05/17/2014 5:05 PM

05/17/2014 5:29 PM

Artists on scaffolding painted murals Saturday depicting honeybees, geometric shapes, flowers and a giant taco on the graffiti-covered back wall of a shopping center in east Arlington.

The back wall of Park Plaza Shopping Center, one of Arlington’s oldest retail spaces, faces a neighborhood. People who live there have long had to look at the unsightly graffiti, multiple colors of peeling cover-up paint and splotches of dirt.

Although the center, near New York Avenue and Park Row Drive, is not in his district, Councilman Robert Rivera posted a picture on his Facebook page about four months ago asking people what could be done.

He and Arlington social media booster Mark Joeckel decided that a mural would be a good way to revitalize the shopping center, and as more people read the posts, they offered to help.

“This center can become a shopping destination of local art galleries, great hole-in-the-wall restaurants and other start-up businesses,” Rivera wrote in his post. “This citizen driven initiative will have a lasting positive neighborhood impact.”

Rivera, who is also an artist, offered to paint part of the wall. He also reached out to the property owner, who agreed to paint the wall white to give the artists a blank canvas.

Joeckel, executive director of Arlington Proud, an independent group dedicated to improving economic development in the city, coordinated the artists who agreed to help.

“It all started on social media, and it has been on a roll from there,” Joeckel said. “I could see people tagging each other on the posts as word began to spread.

The work, which is being done on a volunteer basis, will not cost taxpayers anything, Rivera said

“This is just citizens of Arlington coming together to make a positive change in this community,” he said.

Ignacio Ruiz, who lives across the street from the shopping center, said that the wall has looked ugly for decades and that he is excited to see what the finished product will be.

“It will be a lot more appealing,” he said. “People won’t think of it as a dump.”

A launch party for the project was held at the Plaza Pub, a watering hole in that has been in the center since 1955.

Bar manager Roberto Lopez said the project will be a boost for the area.

“If this project succeeds — and I think it will — it will bring more people to the area and show that we not only have downtown Arlington but we have the Park Plaza, too,” he said.

The mural, which will cover about 320 feet of the wall — space that was once occupied by the Park Plaza Lanes bowling alley which closed about 20 years ago — should take as few weeks to complete.

Amy Stephens, a local artist who has an art degree from the University of North Texas, is painting a mural of bees on a honeycomb and trees. She said her father read about the project on Facebook, and told her about it. She volunteered her services immediately.

“My picture is bringing nature back to the concrete,” she said. “It’s a cool opportunity and should be every artist’s dream.”

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