Wadajir. Unidad. Unity.
Three different ways to say working together. That concept is the heart of Friendship Park in Rochester’s Meadow Park neighborhood. “Unity” is also the name of a new CARES Act-funded mural that was unveiled on Saturday.
On a blustery Halloween day, a group gathered at the popular Friendship Park to celebrate its third anniversary and to introduce its latest addition.
A tarp was pulled back to unveil a four-panel, free-standing mural that a group of young people from Meadow Park helped design and paint under the guidance of Rochester artist Mary Beth Magyar.
Three panels depict households in Somalia, Mexico and Guatemala to honor the background of many of the residents of the neighborhood, with a fourth panel to represent the diverse Rochester neighborhood. All of the panels included a soccer ball, as the sport transcends the different cultures and the neighborhood hosts a popular soccer league.
The young residents who helped create the mural excitedly explained its images to the small crowd. Mariam Mohamed was proud of the traditional Somali house called a "buul," as well as the "haan," or pot, that often holds milk in front of a home.
The 15-year-old described how Magyar met with her and others in the neighborhood to brainstorm the ideas for the mural.
“We created an outline, and then we decided what we wanted in the mural. Then she (Magyar) drew the outline and we painted it,” she said of the process, which took about two weeks.
The image wasn’t the only creative part of the project. Working with René Halasy and the RNeighbors group, funding for the mural was secured through a CARES Act grant. However, finding a place to paint it in the neighborhood proved to be a challenge.
The Meadow Park group decided to create a “portable” mural with panels in a sturdy metal frame built by the city. April Sutor, director of innovation and collaboration for Family Service Rochester, said there were already plans to occasionally display the mural at other places in the neighborhood and at businesses.
The mural is just the latest addition to the park, thanks to the neighborhood and several Rochester organizations. The mural stands near a new basketball court installed two weeks ago, along with new playground equipment and benches.
All of it originated from goals the residents have for the neighborhood, Sutor explained.
“We don’t do anything to people. We don't do anything for people. We do things WITH people. We asked, ‘What are your hopes and dreams?' And then we said, 'How do you want to be part of making that happening?' ” she said.
A council of residents works on creating a safer, cleaner and healthier neighborhood.
Meanwhile, groups like Family Service Rochester, United Way of Olmsted County and Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association support the neighborhood by helping organize things like healthy cooking classes in Spanish and Somali.
With the help of the Rochester Parks Foundation, the supporters of the park were awarded a $50,000 grant from Mayo Clinic to finance the additional playground equipment, benches and basketball court. The city also contributed funds designated to be used in that ward of Rochester.
While the residents and their supporters have much more they would like to accomplish in Meadow Park, their work has resulted in a park that is “heavily, heavily used,” Sutor said.