The annual block party in Boulder’s Melody-Catalpa neighborhood had a twist this year.
Along with enjoying music and food, residents on Sunday were put to work, helping paint a colorful, 24-foot diameter street mural at the intersection of 16th Street and Kalmia Avenue.
The mural took shape over eight hours as volunteers filled in a paint-by-number outline painted by the organizers at 6 a.m. The design features the trunk and large heart shaped leaves of the Catalpa tree, the foothills, a cloud filled sky and beehives — the Melody neighborhood was the first in Colorado to receive a bee-safe designation.
The original idea was to add chalk art to the annual block party, said resident Lieschen Gargano. But the planning group decided they wanted something more permanent that also could potentially slow traffic at the intersection — a benefit of street murals in other locations.
“Drivers are reminded that kids live here,” she said.
For the project, Gargano applied last fall to Boulder’s Neighborhood Services to “Bring Mmmwhah! to Your Neighborhood” through a $500 grant.
Mmmwhah!, founded by Merlyn Holmes, is working with Melody-Catalpa plus three other Boulder neighborhoods this year. Other projects include helping neighbors start a monthly poetry jam in south Boulder and helping the Mapleton Mobile Home Park residents create an “Earth and Art Solstice Festival.”
“We want to activate art in neighborhoods,” Holmes said. “I hope that more and more of Boulder comes together to do these projects.”
Holmes, whose north Boulder neighborhood has its own street mural, said she remembers the fun of helping paint that mural every time she drives or bikes over it.
“It has a lasting impact,” she said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed it slows traffic down, but we know it’s building community.”
Along with a grant, the Melody street mural project required a city block party permit, while neighbors volunteered to help with everything from the mural’s design to collecting signatures for the permit to the entertainment.
Resident David Wheeler, who plays the Japanese bamboo flute, organized a group of neighborhood musicians to play global music, while Gargano’s husband, Aaron Quilling, brought his Colorado Fried Chicken Company food truck and donated the food.
Wheeler said the neighborhood is connected through an email list, but “it’s not the same as meeting people face to face.”
“If you get together at something like this, you start seeing the human in somebody you thought you had nothing in common with,” he said.
Natasha Delgado, the neighborhood artist who created the conceptual drawing for the mural, said that, as Boulder has expanded and housing prices have soared, the city now feels less like a community than it did in the past. Projects like this, she said, are a way to change that.
“This is a really awesome, so many hands on deck kind of deal,” she said. “We have to be connecting and getting to know one another.”
She used ideas from the students in her After School Art Tank program to create the mural’s design, while teens mixed the paint colors for the volunteers.
“I love art, and I’ve never done a mural,” said paint mixer Dana Shlosberg, a recent Boulder High graduate who has lived in the neighborhood since she was 8 months old. “I love how it’s turning out. It looks amazing. Boulder needs more art.”
Other neighborhood kids painted, sold watermelon juice and sang at the open mic.
Art student and juice seller Amitai Sebba, 9, said it took a lot of compromise for the art students to come up with the main ideas for the mural. His favorite part, he noted, is the tree.
“It’s very fun and you get to hang out with people,” he said. “I fully encourage other neighborhoods to do this.”