Okun Fieldhouse Mural Project
Earlier this year, Johnson County Park and Recreation District released a call to artists within a 500-mile region to design a mural for Okun Fieldhouse at the Mid-America West Sports Complex. Okun Fieldhouse hosts a wide variety of adult and youth basketball and volleyball leagues, tournaments, camps, and special events. The south façade of the fieldhouse is also the backdrop for the adjacent baseball/softball fields and is highly visible from the Mill Creek Streamway Trail as well as from arriving vehicles. An Art Selection Committee made up of artists and community members reviewed all the submissions and selected three artists to develop a design proposal. This public art project will be a large scale, permanent mural that helps to celebrate place, cultivate community, and support creativity. The Art Selection Committee will be making a final recommendation in mid-April.
The goals for the Okun Fieldhouse Mural are to:
- Bring visual interest and beauty to the blank façade.
- Tell one of Johnson County’s “water stories” by highlighting and celebrating the natural setting of the nearby Mill Creek and the presence of the Streamway Trail.
- Inspire a sense of curiosity and interconnection with nature that is within steps of this site.
- Feature visually the native flora, fauna, birds, animals, water ways, and native trees from the area to inspire visitors to appreciate, discover, and protect these vital natural resources.
- Build capacity and invest in the local arts community of Kansas City by providing educational opportunities/shadowing for local artists aspiring to this work.
When asked about the inspiration behind the “Rebirth” design proposal, ITRAicons stated:
The concept of this mural is based on the idea that water is the foundation for life. In modern society, we are able to adapt our environments so extensively that we often forget the importance, uniqueness, and power of the land we stand on. Even though most of our cities and towns are built on waterways, how many of us feel connected to these histories, to these sources of life? How many of us think of modern society as yet another ecosystem built on waterways? Most importantly, how would we treat our rivers and streams if we viewed them not just as part of our scenery, but as the authors of our civilization?
“Rebirth” is a visual tribute to the richness of life that springs from waterways. To create this scene, different photos were collaged from the Mill Creek Streamway Trail systems. The mural starts and ends with a train, suggesting the importance of journeys and migration in nature. On the left, the ferocious beauty and transformative power of prairie fire contrasts with the peace and stillness of the water, reminding us that duality is essential for harmony and balance.
All plants and animals pictured are native to this area. The birds and butterflies are a tribute to freedom, asking us to look up, let our minds wonder and wander, and find perspective in the vastness of the sky. The wildflowers are a testament to the unique beauty of prairie ecosystems. On the right is a modern rendition of the Mill Creek “mill.” At the center of the mural is a grandparent leading their grandchild over the bridge, reminding us that we won’t be able to move into the future without honoring and learning from the past.
About the Artists
ITRAicons is the collaboration of Kansas City muralists Isaac Tapia and Rodrigo Alvarez. The duo began working together in the summer of 2017, when they were commissioned to paint two murals at the Richardson Early Learning Center. Since then, the artists have been commissioned to paint over 36 murals in the Kansas City area. Their diverse body of work is united by vibrant colors, evolving designs and themes that celebrate their communities and honor their identities as artists who migrated to the U.S. at a very young age.
- Isaac Tapia was born in Mexico, where he lived until moving to U.S. when he was 9. He graduated from Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts in 2010 and studied at the Kansas City Art Institute. In his solo artwork, Isaac focuses on portraits that celebrate important members of his community. He paints primarily with oils but also enjoys watercolor and drawing. Isaac had a solo exhibition at the Mattie Rhodes Art Gallery in 2016. In June of 2019, he was given a four week scholarship to attend the Illustration Academy by the National Endowment for the Arts and Interurban Arthouse.
- Rodrigo "Rico" Alvarez" was born in Rivera, Uruguay and moved to Kansas City in October of 2002,. He graduated from the Paseo Academy Of Fine and Performing Arts in May of 2007 and studied graphic design at Metropolitan Community College. In his solo artwork, Rodrigo explores the persistence and relentless force of Mother Earth by fusing organic figures into metal sculptures. By bending, melting, and bracing commonly used metals into harmonic organisms he hopes to portray the balance, power and adaptability of nature.
Community Engagement Projects
"My Mill Creek" Travelling Mural
Sessions occurred throughout June, July, and August and created an educational opportunity for participants to research, design, and create a unique, collaborative mural alongside the accomplished artist team ITRAicons. The mural is now on display at Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center through the end of 2022. Come see it in-person Monday - Saturday, 9 AM - 5 PM!
Community Mural Participants: Meron Abebe, Carver Aktins, Madden Atkins, Palmer Atkins, Neeharika Buddha, Archaea Chaudhari, Edgar Chavez, Katie Clement, Emma Clement, Jesi De La Paz, Xochitl De La Paz-Portillo, DeAnn Gould-Lancaster, Jonathan Lancaster, Maureen Lauderdale, Courtney Melvin, Laura Miller, Nikita Moibi, Sue Moreno, Miguel Pina, Luis Ramos, Jennifer Rivas, Nico Rivas, Caterina Rivas, Troy Rivas, Amy Sell, Melana Sell, Brody Sell, Laura Kennedy
"A Day at Okun" Zine Project
Below are videos created by ITRAicons to document the process of creating the "Rebirth" mural and leading the community engagement projects!
Okun Fieldhouse Mural Art Selection Committee
Pictured: Shannon Sonnier, Allison Bowman, Susan Mong, J.J. Miller, Doug Hite, Carol Tinklepaugh, Jordon Cline, Whitney Williamson
- Allison Bowman
- Jordan Cline
JCPRD Planning & Development
- Doug Hite
JCPRD Sports & Facilities North Manager
- J.J. Miller
City of Shawnee
- Susan Mong
JCPRD Superintendent of Culture
- Shannon Sonnier
JCPRD Assistant Superintendent of Recreation
- Carol Tinklepaugh
- Whitney Williamson
Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art; JCPRD Public Art Committee liaison