New Riverside mural invites community in

Riverside mural
A mural of student and community art wraps around the north and west sides of Riverside Central Elementary School.
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The mural that wraps around the northwest corner of Riverside Central Elementary School is a culmination of years of work and partnerships with more than a dozen community organizations.

Featuring handmade art by students and community members and stretching more than 20 feet high, the mural has already caught eyes and prompted comments to Matt Ruzek, Riverside principal.

"My response is, you should see what’s inside," he said.

Riverside hosted a public event to commemorate completion and installation of the artwork Tuesday afternoon. City leaders and partners on the project spoke. The band Knufunk performed in the school gym as students, staff and guests celebrated completion of the project after nearly two years of effort.

"The beauty of the mural is that it encompasses some facet of all our community partners in some way," Ruzek said.


Students helped design and worked on the piece during two week-long artist-in-residency art classes. More than 500 more people contributed during a paint party last fall at the Rochester Farmers Market. The mural on the building isn’t a replica of the art, but an entire original piece created by hand.

"This is a community piece and we want to reflect that," said Greta McLain, owner and lead artist of Minneapolis-based GoodSpace Murals. "There’s a community ownership of it."

The piece was created using fade resistant paint and adhered to the building with acrylic gel.

Ruzek said the piece was needed to show the equity, diversity and inclusion the full-service school and its community partners work to cultivate. A full-service community school is a facility where education, health care and other needs are met for students and families under one roof.

"It invites our community in," Ruzek said.

The design also included some student portraits. One student featured, third grader Lucky Kumbo, 9, is a first-generation U.S.-born child to a family of African immigrants.

"I feel blessed," he said about having his face on the mural. "And I feel cool."

His father, Paul Kumbo, spoke to the assembled crowd at the mural commemoration Tuesday. He recalled his wife walking with their oldest son, Samson, then, 5, to Riverside from their Center Street home. She pushed him in a stroller in the snow in order to get to the school faster.


Kumbo recalled his amazement as Samson, who’s now 13, quickly grasped English thanks to the teachers at Riverside.

"(The teachers here) started an amazing life for my first boy," Kumbo told the crowd assembled in the gym. "This shows what happens with effort — the dream that lies dormant within will come out."

Kumbo lives in another school boundary but elected to send his younger kids to Riverside as well.

For school leaders and their partners who funded and helped complete the mural, the commemoration marks the end of nearly two years of efforts. For Ruzek, it also marks the beginning of the next project — once they figure out what it will be.

"It has to be organic and has to meet a need," Ruzek said. "We don’t want it to be something an adult created in the vacuum of an office."

Riverside Central Elementary School third-grade teacher Elizabeth Larson dances with third-grade student Ebla Mohammed in the Riverside school gym for a commemoration and dedication celebration for a mural on the school Tuesday.

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