OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Art has sometimes been described as a physical diary, telling stories and keeping memories alive. The South Omaha Art Mural Project is also bringing communities together.
"We can build bridges, we can learn about each other and the different communities and cultures. The music, the dance, the newspapers, the churches, each culture in South Omaha has all of these things that they now share with each other, also the foods and dance and festivals," said Richard Harrison, owner and chief daydreamer at A Midsummer's Mural.
Brush by brush and stroke by stroke, the murals highlight and bring to life the diverse cultures in South Omaha.
"We are able to share stories of what makes our Black community special in South Omaha, our Lithuanian, our Polish, Croatian, our Mexican, our Mayan. These things coming up through art, it is a way of coming to the essence of the stories" adds Harrison.
The larger-than-life murals start pretty small, from a drawing or a rendering, and are brought to life through the eyes of each artist.
Lead artist Aaron Olivio, who is working on the Native-American Murals says, "It's amazing to see something this big turn into something that big. When it starts out on a piece of copy paper and you don't really know how you are going to do it and to see the process unfold it's just the greatest thing. It is what makes art a passion for most artists."
There are 10 completed murals located all across South Omaha. The Native American mural is being created right across from the Mexican mural. It took just about two months to complete it.
The Mexican mural is called the Del Pa Churo, El Pa Sato, meaning, out of the past, comes the future. Not far away is the Mayan mural, representing past, present, and future.
Artists say the key to keeping history alive is also through the younger generation.
"I think it is important for our young people to see something they can ask their elders questions about. Any one of these kids can come and say, 'What does that mean?' and I guarantee you there is someone in their family who knows because we did so much research with so many of the elders from all the tribes," adds Olivio.
We don't have a lot of representation for the different tribes and the youth in this group, so having like different shaw dancers and actual regalia is important for exposure," says Elliana Sitting Eagle, a student artist.
The students are given roles and responsibilities in creating the project. Each mural has a story to tell and a culture to represent.
"I see a lot of Mexican and Hispanic art but never Native American so this is the first here," adds Sitting Eagle.
When complete, the faces on the Native American mural will remain featureless, giving people a chance to envision themselves and connect with the art.
An African American mural is also currently being created. It is being crafted on pieces of cloth and will be hung at 30th and Q St. The two murals will be done soon but may never be completely finished.
"An artist's project is never complete, it will be five years and I will still want to get a ladder and put a little something extra in," continues Olivio.
An Italian mural has also been commissioned. If you want to see all of the murals, you can pop into the Peske Law Firm and look at smaller versions of the murals all in one place. You can also visit SouthOmahaMuralProject.com for the locations of each of the murals.