The goodwill and positive response to the large outdoor mural on the back of the building that houses the St. Joseph Today Visitor Center in the central business district led the organization's Executive Director, Amy Zapal, to consider additional murals downtown and she made a successful pitch for one at City Hall tonight.
At her organization's annual meeting in March, Zapal shared the fact that underwriters indicated an interest in helping to make additional murals a reality, but had no specifics to share at that point, realizing that the city would need to approve any such ventures on a case-by-case basis. While there was underwriter interest, no actual funds were committed at that time, pending approvals.
She followed up her plan by requesting support from the city's Parks Advisory Board at a March 21st meeting, for placement of a mural on the stairs that take people from the top of Lake Bluff Park down to the Amtrak Train Station, Silver Beach Pizza, Whirlpool Centennial Park, and Shadowland at Silver Beach with the Silver Beach Carousel. Following lengthy discussions during that meeting and again at that board's April 11th meeting, the Parks Advisory panel voted to recommend that the City Commission approve the request at its May 9th meeting.
The Parks Board recommended the City Commission approve St. Joseph Today's request to place a tempera paint mural on the Lake Bluff Park Stairs, but approved the request in concept only. At this time St. Joseph Today does not have a mural design or theme selected for the stairs, but did provide Commissioners with a concept design for reference, as shown in the photo of butterflies along the bluff in the photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market.
City staff members told the Commission that by approving the mural using tempera paint, "It will allow the community time to respond to the placement of a mural on the Bluff Stairs, without the permanence of acrylic paint. The tempura will wash away with rain and weather, and it is believed it will last anywhere from a few days to several months."
Staff also reminded the Commission, that the mural would only appear on the stair risers, meaning it would only be visible to those below the bluff, facing east...looking directly at the stairway. It would be completely invisible to anyone looking west toward Lake Michigan from atop the bluff, largely because there will be no paint on the stair treads. That also helps keep those traversing the stairs from being distracted as they venture down, and equally as important, would not change the texture of the stair surface or make them slippery in any way.
Last Thursday, Zapal appeared before the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and requested that, if appropriate, they also provide support to her request. The DDA, in turn, voiced support for the request as presented, but also with no proposed artwork suggested.
Tonight, the St. Joseph City Commission granted approval for the placement of a mural on the stair risers along Lake Bluff Park.
Amy Zapal says she will now begin the process of working with artists on a concept, coordinating their schedule, and take it from there. She tells me that target date would be to have the artwork to start around the time of the Chalk the Block Festival which runs from August 2nd to the 4th downtown. Stay tuned.