Mural adds color to Springfield neighborhood basketball court

A south Springfield neighborhood is about to boast the most distinctive and colorful outdoor basketball court in the city if not the region.

A collaboration between The Conscious Connect, a local nonprofit focusing on literacy and neighborhood revitalization, and Project Jericho is transforming the 30 by 30 foot court in a small area informally known as the Woodward Avenue Family Park, located at 1615 Woodward Ave., with a floor mural that anyone, not just basketball players, can admire.

About 20 Project Jericho youths along with staff members Lauren Houser and Kristi Limes worked with Columbus-based artist Cera Marie on the design over the past week. The mural contains several colorful painted triangles and positive messages emblazoned between the free throw line and basket including “You are valued, smart, courageous…” and so on.

Known for their work on various murals around the city, Project Jericho was contacted by Karlos Marshall, co-founder and president of Conscious Connect, about the park project in 2019.

“They are the preeminent youth organization for public art and the most obvious connection,” Marshall said.

Already engaged in the Rose City mural in downtown Springfield then, Houser tried to schedule this mural as part of Project Jericho’s annual summer arts camp. The coronavirus pandemic forced the camp’s cancellation, yet both sides brainstormed how to create the mural while observing social distancing and health guidelines, including wearing masks while painting.

“Murals are part of our yearly program,” Houser said. “We have a desire to see communities thrive.”

Cera Marie, who has worked with the program for five years, offered several design options to be done quickly and fit all skill levels so the work will last for several years. They were blessed with good weather to work in.

The project was supported by the Ohio Arts Council and the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

Several Project Jericho kids were excited to return to live art after several months of online work. Even though the call came at the last minute, Genesis Lewis jumped at the chance.

“It’s so much prettier. It reminds me a of a kaleidoscope,” she said of the court.

Marshall, who lives on Woodward Ave., secured the two lots that contained houses that were demolished. After they were cleared, The Conscious Connect added disc golf, one of its lending library boxes with books and benches.

After asking neighbors what else would be a good addition, they suggested a basketball court, installed in 2019. Instead of a common concrete court, it can now be admired in multiple ways.

“So many pieces of art kids can’t touch. This speaks to our participants. There aren’t a lot of areas where athletes and the world of art worked together,” said Limes, Project Jericho’s success coordinator.

Though she won’t be found on the court, Mary Anne Riley, whose home sits across from the park, is a basketball cheerleader. She loves watching the kids play from her porch and is invested in the neighborhood.

She purchased a portable basketball hoop years ago that the kids used until it broke, and was thrilled to see the new court and the work on it.

“I absolutely love it. I’ve been here for 42 years and I watch these kids all the time,” she said. “We’re more like family here than neighbors. It’s good to see some attention here in our neighborhood.”

Houser said the court will be ready on Friday, Aug. 21. No ceremony or opening are planned.

The mural is just part of the park’s ongoing transformation. Marshall said the next phase will include adding a shelter house, redoing the steps leading up to the park, brick pavers and a retaining wall.

“I want there to be a family atmosphere, a place where people can congregate like back in the day,” he said.