A breath of fresh paint

Renewal: A source of community pride, the mural in the Walbrook Junction shopping center is getting a face lift.

November 19, 1999|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

To artist Shawn McRaney, refurbishing the mural at Walbrook Junction is an opportunity to bring life back to a work created 19 years ago. And a chance to make some money.

For people who grew up in Walbrook, McRaney's work is a symbol that someone cares about the community's history as well as a reminder of the trains that once rumbled through the area.

In the two weeks he has labored on the mural, McRaney, 35, has come to appreciate its importance to the community.

"I don't know how much power a mural can have, but it definitely means something," he said.

"The mural generates a lot of community pride," said Calaway Braxton, branch manager of Advance Bank in Walbrook Shopping Center. "It gives the shopping center a softer look and gives some character to the area."

The mural off Clifton Avenue was created in 1980 by more than a dozen students under the auspices of the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture.

The refurbishing project was organized through the same committee, said Gary Kachadourian, visual arts coordinator. The Business Assistance Group in the Department of Housing and Community Development is picking up the nearly $4,000 price tag. Budeke's Paints Inc. donated the paint.

"We met with Calaway, and he basically spoke about how they like that mural but [that] it's in rough shape," Kachadourian said this week. "We said we could repair it and repaint it as it was, and they were real happy with that."

Braxton has worked at Advance Bank since 1993, but he grew up in the Walbrook area. He has seen the mural decline over the years.

"It has been unblemished by graffiti," Braxton said. "But as the shopping center began to grow, merchants' trucks would back up against the wall, damaging it. I got the idea that if we could get the art students at the school [Walbrook High] to enhance it again, that'd be great. But it turns out the city had decided to do it."

McRaney began working on the mural Nov. 8 and expects to finish next week. He said it's not uncommon for people to stop by for a few seconds to thank him.

Some of them, particularly older men, hang around to reminisce about Walbrook Junction and what life was like there when the trains and trolleys transported passengers there.

Still others stop long enough to watch McRaney stroke the paint brush across the wall before walking on.

Donald Comegys has been keeping his eye on McRaney's progress and couldn't help but jump out of his car Wednesday with an all-important question.

"Why'd you take Carey Street off of that one?" Comegys asked, pointing to the destination sign on the No. 264 train. "I used to live on Carey Street, and it brings back memories."

McRaney kept stroking his paint brush while explaining that he plans to re-paint the words Carey Street.

That was a relief to Comegys, a Baltimore firefighter who grew up in the street's 500 block.

"I want to come up here and take a picture in front of that with Carey Street on it," said Comegys, 45. "I remember the trolley cars. They were getting ready to go out when I was a kid, but you remember the trolley cars."

Comegys said he thinks it's great that the city is refurbishing the mural.

So does Braxton, who said the work is "like a prayer answered."

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