★ Poetry and life in a creative community. Contribute to Wasena’s Mockingbird Mural Project today.

Some of Roanoke’s favorite placemakers and city builders are taking a literary brush to Wasena’s commercial district. The project will cover a wall of the Wasena Getty Mart (1115 Main Street, SW), paying tribute to local poet Maurice Ferguson. Ferguson is literary editor of Artemis Journal, and has long encouraged new voices and an active literary community in the region.

fergusonWork on the mural begins today. “It’s an effort to integrate poetry in our lives,” says Angela Charlton, a poetry fan and just part of the volunteer energy behind the effort.

An project like this requires talented people who care about art and words and deploying them to make our place even better. I bet there are even more involved, but the list includes poet/instigator Melanie Almeder, poet Mary Crockett Hill, Angela Charlton, the spirited changemaker Mim Young, artist Scott “Toobz” Muir, Dave Wiseman, Roanoke Arts and Cultural Coordinator Susan Jennings, incoming Wasena Neighborhood Forum President Jeff Todd, and property owner Atul Patel.

Maurice’s Mockingbird Mural. Artist’s rendering by Toobz.

The idea has been in the mind of poet Melanie Almeder for years, and over April and early May, the idea gained traction. “Once people came together to explore the feasibility, the response was swift and enthusiastic!” says Charlton. “Folks from the poetry community banded together to organize, pulled Toobz in to execute, Mim Young and her effort RAMP (Roanoke Art Mural Project) to help coordinate, and BAM!”

BAM is right. This is how a can-do community gets things done. It’s how artists look at their place. The artist selected for the project, Scott “Toobz” Muir, has painted a number of murals in the community, including the friendly heron looming a couple of short blocks away in “Humanufacturing” at Greenway Self Storage (1306 8th St. SW). Toobz is a local favorite, a prolific artist and a muralist well respected around the state. His largest mural to date was commissioned by the Taubman Museum of Art. “In it for the Long Run” can still be seen beneath the museum’s neighboring Williamson Road bridge.

“Much of Roanoke is a poetry desert,” says Young. A project like this has community as well as economic effects. “The Getty Mart is one of the longest, continually operating and most popular businesses on Wasena’s Main Street corridor. It’s very exciting to me that the children and families of Wasena will be exposed to poetry on a regular basis. Art by Bike tours will put this mural on their maps as well, so the neighborhood will have more people visiting and purchasing from the businesses that will be popping up as buildings are restored to use.”

In reimagining Wasena as “a poetry village,” Young and all of the contributers bring to the effort the knowledge and skills honed in other projects, and like all good collaborative endeavors, this one will make the team even better at effecting this sort of change. We have reason to hope this is the first of a number of poetry inspired murals. And to make that the case, I’m encouraging lots of contributions to Maurice’s Mockingbird Mural campaign.

Watch for more here as the mural is finished and the community responds. And when you see one of these city builders, thank them, or even better, recite for them a little piece of poetry. ★

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