In just 12 days, a brick wall in north Omaha became a mural representing the culture of the community.
Omaha-born artist Reggie LeFlore painted the mural, which is part of the Union for Contemporary Art’s Neighborhood Arts program. The program adds a mural in north Omaha each summer. Last year, a mural was painted in Florence in far north Omaha.
It was unveiled at a celebration Saturday morning at the intersection of 24th and Ohio Streets. The Omaha Small Business Network, which owns the building where the mural is, partnered with the Union.
“When you come into north Omaha, you should see great art, you should hear great music, and you should see fine apparel,” said Don McPherson, owner of Style of Evolution, the clothing store on the other side of the mural wall. “It just goes with our culture.”
Called “The Ancestor, The Identity, and The Seed,” the mural represents the same themes as the Pan-African flag. The Union held three meetings where community members gave their thoughts on what the mural’s design should be.
“It means so much,” LeFlore said about returning from Minneapolis to Omaha and contributing to the community. “I didn’t grow up with an arts organization that was helping area kids learn about all kinds of things: pottery and painting and cooking. It’s just wonderful to see that.”
A portrait of an Omahan accompanies each of the three stripes, and references one of the flag’s themes: Celeste Butler, 59, who was a 2017 Union fellow; Jonathan Brice, known as the local rapper “Lite Pole”; and Thailea Brice, a 10-year-old girl who goes to art classes at the Union.
“We have so many diamonds in the rough,” Butler said about north Omaha artists. “Their skills have been untapped. The Union allowed me that opportunity to be able to do my creative expression. ... I’ve been doing it all of my life since I was a little girl, but having that level of exposure launched it onto another level.”
The portrait of Butler and the red stripe represent “blood ties to the African continent and the cultures and history and knowledge that comes with that,” LeFlore said. “She has a very motherly, warm, knowledgeable spirit.”
“The Identity” is represented by Lite Pole and the black stripe. Some of his lyrics are shown on the mural, including “Be You To Full.”
“It’s an honor to represent something larger than myself,” he said.
The green stripe and Thailea represent growth and fertility. “She is someone that’s growing and being nurtured by her surroundings,” LeFlore said.
“The project nicely fits our larger mission of supporting economic development along the North 24th Street corridor,” Omaha Small Business Network Executive Director Julia Parker said in a press release.
LeFlore was assisted by a Detroit-based painter and 2018 Union fellow known as Baber.
“I am so glad that this young man came in and put something up that really ... symbolizes something for the younger generation to get to know,” McPherson said. “Maybe it will inspire others to do something in our community like that.”