Little Rock: Two Murals and a New Downtown

Little Rock: Two Murals and a New Downtown
The lobby wall in the Fine Arts Building, Chicago, Illinois

Little Rock Arkansas has a little rock and a big rock.  I’ve been living here for six months and haven’t seen either one.  But I’ve seen a lot of things more interesting than rocks, small or large.

On the corner of Main and 6th Street, right across from the Rep, a local theater company is the Koi mural.  It faces a ground level parking lot which replaced retail buildings demolished in 2009. The large white wall was blank for seven years. Then a group of local businessmen decided to commission Matt McLeod to paint a mural, which they hoped would liven up the downtown area, and spur its redevelopment.  Local leaders had be trying to revitalize downtown Little Rock since the 1960’s, with many plans that cost a lot of money and went nowhere.  It was like the Loop in Chicago on a much smaller scale.  By 2008 when my son moved to Little Rock, there were only two business on Main Street and blocks of empty storefronts. There were other similarities as well.  A slow but steady gentrification was beginning then, old warehouse building in the downtown were renovated as loft apartments, two large condo buildings were built in the River Market area near  the Clinton Presidential Library.  Like the Loop, when people moved downtown, its revitalization took off.

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The Koi mural was painted by Little Rock Artist Matt McLeod in 2015, assisted by art students from two local universities, University of Arkansas at Little Rock and University of Central Arkansas (alma mater of Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippin). The colorful mural is large, about 37oo square feet, and was inspired by a oil painting by McLeod called “Feed the Fish.”  McLeod was happy to paint the mural and help to bring downtown back to life.  He runs an art gallery in a renovated building just south of the mural.

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A few blocks away on 7th Street, I found some painting that could to be related to a child care agency, or could be  graffiti.  “Downtown for Good” and “Thrive” is written above hearts painted on the side of an old building . The building, next to a parking lot appears to be vacant, and graffiti is sometimes associated with empty buildings.  I  could not find anything about this painting, but I think that it could be associated with a large childcare building in the same block.  I like the idea of this painting, because downtown is  coming back, and 7th street is on the edge of downtown.  A bit of research led me to the Child Development Center, sponsored by the First United Methodist Church of Little Rock, located in the same block, a group with deep roots in the city.  The Center has programs for children from infants up through school age.  Good childcare near downtown makes for a strong community.

 

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Filed under: Murals on buildings

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