Grassroots success: residents unite to brighten Duck Island

The idea? A neighborhood mural. But going from idea to implementation on a grassroots project can be a long process with lots of starts and stops.

This week, we're highlighting the Duck Island Block Club and the mural area neighbors painted in the neighborhood with help from local artist Jill LeMieux and the business Pro Painters, which donated time to paint the base coat. The entire project from idea to completion took more than two years.

Do you have a great idea to improve your neighborhood? Then why not "Neighbor Up" and check out Neighborhood Connections small grants. For residents of Cleveland and East Cleveland, the grants are awarded by a committee of residents from those municipalities.

Now onto Duck Island, the mural project and the locals who made it happen. All photos by Janet Century Photography unless otherwise noted.

Cami Ross

Duck Island is "very much it’s own place, it’s own neighborhood," said resident Cami Ross. "We’re our own thing. A lot of people have lived here their whole lives. We think this is the best location in Cleveland. Look at the view! And you can walk to the West Side Market ... People say the name comes from Prohibition and ducking from the police. [Others say the neighborhood got its name because] it looks like an island surrounded by grass."

Duck Island is a small neighborhood located between Tremont and Ohio City.

A few neighbors had the idea for the mural and then went door-to-door to talk with other residents about their idea and what people would like to see included in the mural. People talked about the history of the neighborhood. It was once home to many bakeries and close to the steel mills. Artist Jill LiMieux included that history in the mural design.

Planning, planning. A neighborhood project usually takes a lot of planning before any action is taken. Here, the Duck Island Block Club meets to talk about the mural.

And it begins! Christopher McGonnell and the Pro Painting crew donated their time to paint the base coat. Then residents painted the blue background. They stopped in part due to weather and waited several months to come back to the project.

Break time! Mural painting is not all work and no play. On the days neighbors got together to paint, they also brought snacks and coffee.

Cami and a friend posed for a photo just before a new homeowner joined the painting crew. “Duck Island is really perfectly situated," he said. "Just imagine walking over the bridge to go to a ball game ... There’s activity, there’s a neighborhood feel. I want to try to get involved. This is going to be my new home. What can I give?”

Completed mural on the northern wall of the Hope Memorial Bridge adjacent to W. 20th St. Photo by Erin O'Brien

It took a year to go from idea to initial implementation -- painting the background -- and it took even longer before painting was completed this spring. Doing a community project can take time. It's important to slow down at the beginning of a project to get input and support from your neighbors, area businesses and other stakeholders.

But when you reach your goal it's ... a celebration!

Support for this series, "Grassroots Success: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods," is provided by Neighborhood Connections.
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