The Brookfield Beatification Commission made significant progress in Progress Park on Saturday morning when they dedicated a colorful outdoor mural depicting the four elements – earth, air, water and fire – at the pie-slice shaped green-space at Eight Corners.
“Progress Park exemplifies a community that is connected, caring and concerned with the environment,” said Carol McBride-Leslie, the commission’s chair. Brookfield Zoo also donated a bench decorated with the outstretched wings of an eagle. Land for the park at Broadway and Washington Sts. was donated by First National Bank of Brookfield.
The four-paneled mural was created by Riverside Brookfield High School students under the direction of Fine Arts Department Chair Nick Gehl. RBHS Principal Pam Bylsma praised the project, saying it showed students collaboration and a “concrete experience of citizenship. Young adults are willing to contribute but they have to be invited in,” she said. Creative writing students also contributed seven-word poems describing the four elements through a collaboration with the Friends of the Brookfield Library and the Zoo’s “Say it in 7” conservation poetry contest. Four of the poems are engraved in pavers near the bench. Vulcan Material also donated two large boulders to the site.
The 10-foot by 37-foot mural was painted on parachute cloth at the school and then hung “like wallpaper” over a fencing support structure built by Roger Freman of Freeman Fencing. It was bonded to concrete drywall and then covered with a protective polymer gel that will withstand weather and graffiti.
Artist Sonata Kazimieraitiene – who helped build the outdoor rain garden sculpture at Hollywood School – worked as adviser to the project. “The final design was based on the students’ work,” she said. A ribbon of wind connects the four panels in a unifying theme, she said. The project was approved in May and students had only a few weeks to complete it.
Creating the panels on the Polytab fiber made the mural portable and made it possible for students to paint it inside instead of traveling to the site, said Pam Powers, a commission member. But when school closed for the summer, that portability allowed the murals to end up in her family room, Powers laughed. “After graduation, the school was closed and they put [the mural panels] in a truck and brought them to my house. We hung them on my walls.” Final touches were added at Powers’ home and the panels were affixed to the support by public art expert Dante DiBarotolo.
More landscaping is in store for the park, with a mounded berm, more seating and a nod to poetry and reading with more poems embedded in pavers.