Okun Fieldhouse Mural Project

Okun Imagine Art Here

Project Overview

Earlier this year, Johnson County Park and Recreation District released a call to artists within a 500-mile region to design a mural for Okun Fieldhouse at the Mid-America West Sports Complex. Okun Fieldhouse hosts a wide variety of adult and youth basketball and volleyball leagues, tournaments, camps, and special events. The south façade of the fieldhouse is also the backdrop for the adjacent baseball/softball fields and is highly visible from the Mill Creek Streamway Trail as well as from arriving vehicles. An Art Selection Committee made up of artists and community members reviewed all the submissions and selected three artists to develop a design proposal. This public art project will be a large scale, permanent mural that helps to celebrate place, cultivate community, and support creativity. The Art Selection Committee will be making a final recommendation in mid-April.

The goals for the Okun Fieldhouse Mural are to:

  • Bring visual interest and beauty to the blank façade.
  • Tell one of Johnson County’s “water stories” by highlighting and celebrating the natural setting of the nearby Mill Creek and the presence of the Streamway Trail. 
  • Inspire a sense of curiosity and interconnection with nature that is within steps of this site. 
  • Feature visually the native flora, fauna, birds, animals, water ways, and native trees from the area to inspire visitors to appreciate, discover, and protect these vital natural resources. 
  • Build capacity and invest in the local arts community of Kansas City by providing educational opportunities/shadowing for local artists aspiring to this work.

Project Description

When asked about the inspiration behind the “Rebirth” design proposal, ITRAicons stated:

The concept of this mural is based on the idea that water is the foundation for life. In modern society, we are able to adapt our environments so extensively that we often forget the importance, uniqueness, and power of the land we stand on. Even though most of our cities and towns are built on waterways, how many of us feel connected to these histories, to these sources of life? How many of us think of modern society as yet another ecosystem built on waterways? Most importantly, how would we treat our rivers and streams if we viewed them not just as part of our scenery, but as the authors of our civilization?

“Rebirth” is a visual tribute to the richness of life that springs from waterways. To create this scene, different photos were collaged from the Mill Creek Streamway Trail systems. The mural starts and ends with a train, suggesting the importance of journeys and migration in nature. On the left, the ferocious beauty and transformative power of prairie fire contrasts with the peace and stillness of the water, reminding us that duality is essential for harmony and balance.

All plants and animals pictured are native to this area. The birds and butterflies are a tribute to freedom, asking us to look up, let our minds wonder and wander, and find perspective in the vastness of the sky. The wildflowers are a testament to the unique beauty of prairie ecosystems. On the right is a modern rendition of the Mill Creek “mill.” At the center of the mural is a grandparent leading their grandchild over the bridge, reminding us that we won’t be able to move into the future without honoring and learning from the past. 

About the ArtistsITRA Picture_cropped

ITRAicons is the collaboration of Kansas City muralists Isaac Tapia and Rodrigo Alvarez. The duo began working together in the summer of 2017, when they were commissioned to paint two murals at the Richardson Early Learning Center. Since then, the artists have been commissioned to paint over 36 murals in the Kansas City area. Their diverse body of work is united by vibrant colors, evolving designs and themes that celebrate their communities and honor their identities as artists who migrated to the U.S. at a very young age.

  • Isaac Tapia was born in Mexico, where he lived until moving to U.S. when he was 9. He graduated from Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts in 2010 and studied at the Kansas City Art Institute. In his solo artwork, Isaac focuses on portraits that celebrate important members of his community. He paints primarily with oils but also enjoys watercolor and drawing.  Isaac had a solo exhibition at the Mattie Rhodes Art Gallery in 2016.  In June of 2019, he was given a four week scholarship to attend the Illustration Academy by the National Endowment for the Arts and Interurban Arthouse.
  • Rodrigo "Rico" Alvarez" was born in Rivera, Uruguay and moved to Kansas City in October of 2002,. He graduated from the Paseo Academy Of Fine and Performing Arts in May of 2007 and studied graphic design at Metropolitan Community College. In his solo artwork, Rodrigo explores the persistence and relentless force of Mother Earth by fusing organic figures into metal sculptures. By bending, melting, and bracing commonly used metals into harmonic organisms he hopes to portray the balance, power and adaptability of nature.

Community Engagement Projects - Free and Open to the Public!

"My Mill Creek" Travelling MuralCommunity Mural Project Opens in new window

This community engagement opportunity will be a companion travelling mural created by the community and for the community. This two-part public workshop will occur on June 4 and 25 and create an educational opportunity for participants to research, design, and create a unique, collaborative mural alongside the accomplished artist team ITRAicons. The painting of the mural, a team effort between community members and ITRAicons, will occur over the month of July. All ages welcome! Advanced registration is required. 

Learn more and RSVP at the link below.
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"A Day at Okun" Zine ProjectA Day at Okun

The second community engagement project called “A Day at Okun” and will occur later this summer. This will include a day of exploration at Okun Fieldhouse and the nearby Mill Creek Streamway, specifically designed for school-aged youth. Young artists will learn about the history of biological illustration, develop a sense of curiosity and appreciation for their natural surroundings, and create a personal “zine” for them to take home. 

Date and registration details to come!

Okun Fieldhouse Mural Art Selection Committee

Okun Fieldhouse Mural_2022 Art Selection Committee

Pictured: Shannon Sonnier, Allison Bowman, Susan Mong, J.J. Miller, Doug Hite, Carol Tinklepaugh, Jordon Cline, Whitney Williamson

  • Allison Bowman
    Local Artist
  • Jordan Cline
    JCPRD Planning & Development
  • Doug Hite
    JCPRD Sports & Facilities North Manager
  • J.J. Miller
    City of Shawnee
  • Susan Mong
    JCPRD Superintendent of Culture
  • Shannon Sonnier
    JCPRD Assistant Superintendent of Recreation
  • Carol Tinklepaugh
    Local Artist
  • Whitney Williamson
    Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art; JCPRD Public Art Committee liaison

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JCPRD's Public Art Vision Statement

Public art in JCPRD parks, trails and facilities will inspire a deeper connection to place through interactive, immersive, and inclusive experiences.

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Supporting the JCPRD Public Art Program

The Parks and Recreation Foundation of Johnson County plays a crucial role in the fulfillment of JCPRD’s Public Art Program through the procurement of grants and donations. The foundation continues to seek support for future projects through corporate and private funders. Those interested in becoming involved with public art initiatives are encouraged to contact Development Director Erika Seward at 913-826-3448 or [email protected].

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