Disney artist, local poet team up for city mural project
WHEATON – The city of Wheaton will soon be getting a new "pearl." That is, a mural called "Pearls of the Universe," dedicated to the diversity of Wheaton.
Jeannine Bush Clinton, the owner of the Essencia Yoga building, where the mural will be located, said that its inspiration came from her own experience in Wheaton.
"I'm originally from South America, and I traveled all around for a long time, and I think one of the reasons that I have stayed here was because there's such an international presence in this space," she said. "Everyone is welcome."
Bush Clinton said that the entire process, which began about a month ago, moved rapidly and grew quickly, with the help of city officials and volunteers.
She mentioned to Leeann Rampier, the owner of the Sign Authority store in Wheaton, that she was interested in putting up a mural. Rampier then told Laurie Swanson Oberhelman, of Wheaton's Community Relations Commission, about the idea.
"I thought it would be a really good thing to get the Community Relations Commission from the city and the Fine Arts Committee from the city involved," Swanson Oberhelman said.
A member of the Fine Arts Committee suggested they use R.J. Ogren, a muralist who created sets for Wheaton Drama. Ogren has worked at Walt Disney Land and Walt Disney World as a muralist and artist, enhancing the rides in the parks.
Ogren said that murals have a special meaning for him, beyond an artist's desire to have his work seen.
"When I was in elementary school, there was a mural up above in the library. There was this tree and rolling hills and a couple of kids playing and a couple more sitting under a tree. I often just went to the library to look at the mural, I was so affected," he said. "Maybe this mural will effect some young artists or future literary giants and make them think of what they can do in the future."
Still, Bush Clinton said, the group searched for a final piece of inspiration. But that, too, came quickly: a local yoga practitioner and former Ethiopian and Sudanese refugee and English teacher named Meharet Asgedom came into Essencia and told Bush Clinton her story, confiding that she enjoyed expressing herself through poetry. Asgedom shared a poem entitled "The Pearl," a piece about trying to finding her self worth – a pearl – inside of herself.
"All of a sudden, it dawned on me," Bush Clinton said. "She and her story perfectly embodied the message I wanted in the mural."
Ogren said he loved the idea of the mural inspiring the poem.
"I was immediately struck by the concept, the idea of bringing all this together," he said.
Carlson's Hardware donated paint at cost and a local construction company donated a lift for Ogren to use, and he was off.
His design features people wearing traditional clothing from several countries, landmarks from around the world and waves of an ocean, which all flow together to transform into a large, shining pearl in the sky, representing progress and community.
"The poem and the mural are about a journey through life. All the pain and sorrows and joys, only to find the pearl she was longing for in herself," Bush Clinton said. "The mural has a lot of faces and stories and I think it's celebrating hope and all the pearls of the universe."