Lowdown on the W.O.W. and More, Part 1

Seems like only yesterday! Late March is highlighted by anniversaries of a few historic—yet very recent—Brentwood/Crestview events.

On the evening of March 25, 2WOW2008, with little fanfare, Jean Graham completed the mosaic Wall of Welcome (W.O.W.), left, on Woodrow Avenue in Austin.

For Jean, it was the culmination of more than five years of creative focus—designing the wall, raising funds, researching neighborhood history, crafting mosaics, leading tile-making workshops for neighbors, and spending two years installing it all. She also was a longtime volunteer at the Violet Crown Festival, as I was, beginning with the first one in 2003.

As Jean described in a history of the project, the wall was funded by five years of festival proceeds, neighbors who purchased and made tiles, a donation by the Austin Friends of Folk Art, a Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Initiative monetary award, and individual donations.

In addition, although the wall is public art, accessible to all, the project was installed on private, not public, property. Jean also had to secure the permission of J. D. Harper, of Crestview Pharmacy, and other owners of Crestview Shopping Center.

WOW1bThe dedication celebration for the wall was held four days after it was completed, on Saturday, March 29, at the shopping center. (It was the first year there wasn’t a spring Violet Crown Festival since it began in 2003.)

Woodrow Avenue was blocked off in front of the wall, and hundreds of Brentwood and Crestview neighbors of all ages and others filled the street and strolled the shopping center. It’s likely that most of them helped with the project in one way or another during the five years it took to make the wall a reality. They may have attended or volunteered at the Violet Crown Festival (which was created to raise funds for the wall), made a tile, assisted Jean during the installation, and/or supported the project in myriad other ways. (Check out some of our neighbors’ stories here.) All in all, it was an amazing, successful grassroots effort.

Our film A Community Mosaic premiered at the wall dedication, with screenings at Mona Lee Fultz’s BriteLites Studio in the shopping center. A highlight of the film is Jean’s story of how the wall came to be.

Also coming up is the anniversary of the dedication ceremony, held March 27, 2004, for a less-well-known mosaic project. The large mosaic, on a west wall of Brentwood Elementary School, also was created by Jean, with art teacher Linda Anderson, other teachers, and students. (See one of the more than 300 mosaic birds students created for the wall, below.)

The mosaic includes a banner with these words, written by a young Japanese girl:

I will write peace on your wings, and you will fly all over the world.

She wished for world peace and health, and she believed in an ancient Japanese legend: If you fold 1000 origami cranes, a wish will come true.

The young girl was Sadako Sasaki. She completed 644 cranes before she died in 1955 from the lingering effects of radiation exposure, after an atomic bomb was dropped near her home in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. In her memory, her friends made the rest of the cranes. Each year, Brentwood Elementary students make 1000 origami cranes and send them to Japan in honor of her.

Don’t miss “Lowdown on the W.O.W. and More, Part 2,” coming next week on Voices of the Violet Crown!

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