The brand-new mural A Day in the Life of Sayler Park, by artists Evan Hildebrandt and Allison Sheperd and a team of ArtWorks apprentices, is located on the corner of Gracely Dr. and Revere Ave. in Sayler Park, Cincinnati’s Western-most neighborhood.
To my ignorant eyes, Sayler Park seems to be one those Cincinnati neighborhoods that time has forgotten. [I’ve come across several like that, mostly on the West side.] Sayler Park seems quiet, maybe even sleepy and, from examining this mural and learning about the community-driven process behind it, it’s obvious that residents have deep roots in their community. So, the mural is a collection of photographs of neighborhood icons and neighbors, past and present.
That’s all well and good, except for my overhearing one of the artists admit that some of the images are based on stock photography. Arrgh, I really wish that weren’t the case, but perhaps that was the only practical way of obtaining the appropriate range of photos.
The building that serves as the mural site was once owned by the Strassell family, which operated a meat market in the storefront. Below, an actual historic photo, and also one of my favorite moments in the mural, in which the building’s brick becomes one with the brick in the photo:
The storefront later became a Kroger, then a video store, and is now a police sub-station. Below, photos of neighborhood landmarks line the bottom of the mural:
Of course, these strips of “negatives” actually show positive images. The rest of the photos are modular, three-dimensional blocks stacked together:
Apparently, purple irises used to line Gracely Dr. That’s one of my favorite flowers!
Jim Tarbell in costume!
Cincinnati-area murals seem to fall into two general types — those that represent their communities and those that don’t. For instance, Daybreak in O’Bryonville by Kate Holterhoff does not:
Nor does Ice Cream Daydream by Amanda Checco:
Meanwhile, An Epic Tale of Time and Town by Christian Schmit certainly represents its community of Covington:
As does Campy Washington by Scott Donaldson in Camp Washington:
The above three murals all synthesize aspects of the communities in which they’re located. They all include more and less obvious community landmarks and serve, to some extent, to teach neighborhood residents and visitors about these areas. A Day in the Life of Sayler Park falls into this group, but there’s very little synthesis of source imagery. It’s all been collected and plugged into appropriate spaces within two grid systems. And why the distinction between the two grids? I’m not sure.
The two images that teach me, as an outsider, something distinct about the neighborhood’s history [the purple iris] and about the mural’s site [the meat vendor] are presented at the same level as images that don’t — photos of old homes and churches, children and families, historic photos of neighborhood residents and contemporary ones. These images presumably hold meaning for the people who live there, so I think this mural is primarily for their benefit, not for the benefit of visitors. What do you think?