Mount Washington Drive: Let Me Paint You a Picture

Zack Christensen and Antonio Villaraigosa Jr.

For so many of the residents of Mount Washington, our verdant neighborhood with its bohemian spirit and stunning vistas has been an important facet of our lives. Its collective identity holds an irreplaceable value for those of us who grew up here. So it was also for Jack Rohman. Jack, who passed away in January after a battle with schizophrenia, often spoke of a special place in his heart for Mount Washington and about his future plans for living here. We were his friends, and we propose to install a mural in his memory on the concrete bulkhead supporting Mount Washington Drive between Canyon Vista and San Rafael. The four of us involved in the project are trained artists who all grew up on Mount Washington and still find our center here, even as we have ventured off to college and other endeavors. We cherish this place and have a vested interest in preserving its unique qualities.

In that vein, we would like to point out that this project is not intended to be invasive to the neighborhood, as some have suggested. On the contrary, we aim to provide a tangible value for the community. The bulkhead wall supporting Mount Washington Drive where we plan to install this mural is currently a blighted space. Graffiti regularly appears on the already drab concrete surface. Concrete is a fairly alien substance in our green neighborhood. That is why art installations already exist in other locations on the hill, such as near the elementary school and the Southwest Museum, where concrete objects create an otherwise uninviting space. The stairs connecting Olancha and Oneonta on the western edge of Mount Washington are another excellent example. Where bland concrete would fill the landings of the staircase, local students have painted a mural to give the space a more unique sense of place. We would like to provide a similar sense of place for the other end of our community in a location where many recreational walkers would otherwise stare at a lifeless and tarnished retaining wall.

Many of you may have seen the prior installation that existed in that location a year Rob Sipchen and Zach Christensen at the proposed mural site. Image by Kim Ohanneson.ago. Jack was one of primary contributors to that project and the recreation of a mural in that space provides a way to honor his last creative output as an artist. The mural we intend to install will NOT be the same one that existed there previously, and in fact will have a more cohesive and refined narrative. This narrative derives inspiration from Jack’s art, his life, and his essence.

We have begun the process of gathering community support for this project in anticipation of submitting this proposal before the city’s Cultural Affairs Commission. We encourage you join us in a discussion of the mural at the September meeting of the Mount Washington Association, where we look forward to reaching a consensus of support for the project. As we leave you we would like to once again outline the quintessential nature of the project: For the community, bred from the community, memorializing a beloved member of the community.


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