What used to be an empty dirt lot with barren walls, dying plants and broken glass was transformed after one muralist unveiled her newest work May 25 as part of the neighborhood beautification project commissioned by the Gateway Arts Foundation, 9113 Lazy Hill Circle.
Nja Onê, a Summerlin resident, is the first female muralist for the city of Las Vegas. Her second mural, "Through a Child's Heart," completed exactly one year after the first one she did for the city, inspired the community to come together. Gardens have been planted, debris has been removed, and there are even plans to put in a volleyball net and host a neighborhood Fourth of July celebration.
The current mural is at St. Louis and Fairfield avenues, in the northeastern part of Spring Valley.
First impressions are always important, and for Onê, her first impression of the neighborhood inspired the mural's image of a little girl with the "wonder of the world around her," she said.
The urban landscape surrounding the mural had its influence as well.
"(The city) gives people another reason to remember the wonder," Onê said. "Sometimes, the city gets a little too city for everyone, and it's nice to know you can still tap into that wonder, no matter what's around you."
According to Onê, after the mural was completed, people in the area thanked her, told her stories of the neighborhood and said it inspired them to be better neighbors.
"Isn't that amazing?" she asked. "How art can do that to someone's heart, someone's spirit."
That is at the heart of the Gateway Arts Foundation's neighborhood beautification project. The nonprofit group has commissioned numerous local artists to paint murals in the gateway district. All of the artists are compensated for their work through grant money from the city. According to Camille Duskin, who co-founded the organization with her husband, graffiti has been eliminated from nearly all of the participating buildings.
"The work inspires pride in the community," Duskin said. "That's what changing a neighborhood is all about. It's a snowball effect; you just have to get it started."
Sheila Latronica has managed the property where the mural was painted for decades and said Onê's work has had a positive influence on the residents.
The plans for a neighborhood barbecue, the gardens and the children playing football in the lot would not have been possible if not for the work done by the artist, Latronica said.
"It brings a sense of happiness to that area. We have a lot of children in the area, and they've already asked me what we're going to do first over there."
According to Latronica, the lot once was home to the owners of the property with a beautiful garden and large fig trees. The owners, garden and trees have since died and the house torn down. Until the mural was painted, the lot was just somewhere someone used to live, she said.
"There's a certain little bit of sadness over there, but it's more happy now," Latronica said. "There was life over there once, and there will be life over there again with all of the kids."
This work has been a lifelong passion for Onê since she was a girl growing up in New York City. She said she is honored to have been able to participate in the neighborhood beautification project.
"If looking at this mural will bring back that inner joy for people, then I'm happy," she said.
Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Nolan Lister at email@example.com or 383-0492.