A morning volunteering at the 933 Bridge Project
by Troy Cadotte
Recently I spent a few hours with the crew that is painting the 933 Bridge Project. An open volunteer event had been created by two of my friends, Willow Weatherall (from Ignite Michiana) & Andrew Elegante (The State South Bend). This was a perfect opportunity to learn more about the people behind the scenes and what this mural should mean to South Bend.
Christopher Stackowicz is the artist behind the idea and the vision of the project. In January he recently stepped away from teaching to start a new venture called CStackstudios. The goal is "a fully functional visual/spatial transformation art business focusing on changing forgotten and neglected public spaces." Anyone whom has driven under this bridge would admit it fits the prerequisite perfectly. Below is a picture before this project started. Just imagine what people coming to South Bend for the first time thought when they saw it? Its appearance did not reflect well for the state of the city and I am sure it didn't make anyone believe South Bend was a cool place to live or work.
Local architecture is at the heart of the design and you will see arches, columns, and water which South Bend is infamous for because of all the bridges over the St. Joseph River. One of the most excited parts of the project will be the new "South Bend" sign which will be in a railroad type font and will really be an eye catcher. Below is a black and white projection of the finished mural. Painting is not the only thing happening, Improvements in the surrounding landscaping will happen too.
If you have seen the exterior wall mural at Bar Louie or the Marian Devotional at Queen of Peace Parish then you have seen Chris's work. But he is not alone on this project as he is being helped by his wife Samantha and a small team of artists/painters including Julian Alcantar. All of the paint is being donated by Home Depot and Behr Paint. One of the most enlightening moments was when Chris explained to me that a local company stepped up to the plate and offered to help cover some of the costs. Jimmy Johns, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, and Bruno's Pizza have all provided food and drinks along the way.
The best part of this project is that it is open for anyone to help out. During the morning that I visited there was around 15 volunteers. Aaron Perri, Joel Barrett, and Tamara Nicholl-Smith from DTSB Inc. were there on this hot day. As long as the weather cooperates anyone who has some free time can volunteer. You can even schedule some time online Here. Teams from local businesses or non-profits can even create a public service day and help out.
The 933 Bridge is not the only project Chris and his team has in mind for the South Bend area. "We came up with a five year project that is redoing all of the entrance ways into the city in giant mural projects, not that are just done by one artist, but instead they are done by the entire community," says Chris.
It was amazing to see all of the volunteers painting and I even got a few minutes of work in myself. This is how a real community comes together and makes itself better. Not only is a previously blank chunk of concrete getting painted, but the heart of South Bend is being showcased. It has been about three years since South Bend was listed in Newsweek as a dying city. Since then some fires have been lit and there hasn't been just talk of change. Change is happening and I for one am really enjoying it. Be a part of the change, volunteer some time to help out and then as Willow Weatherall says you can say "I helped paint this."