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West Valley City Journal

West Valley residents join artists and interns to paint parks

Aug 31, 2017 04:26PM ● By Jana Klopsch

West Valley residents and volunteers gather at Maple Meadows Park to decorate the concrete elements. (John Rock)

By Keyra Kristoffersen | [email protected]

West Valley City is constantly looking for ways to improve the community and one way they are doing so is with the Paint Your Parks project. 

Beginning last year, the city’s parks have been the target of an improvement project designed to get residents out and create a destination for visitors and residents alike. Artist Roger Whiting has described it as an “artistic intervention.”

Whiting runs the Utah Community Arts, a company that helps create mural and mosaic art projects in Salt Lake City including Fairbourne Station and Westview Park. 

“I really believe that what I’m doing is good for the community,” said Whiting. “I think there are some of us in the world who need to be creating art in order to be happy and I want to be a resource for those people.”

The park revitalization began in 2016 when a set of interns were hired for the summer to help organize and collaborate with Whiting and the Utah Housing Authority to work on Westview Park where they created an expanded map of Utah starting with the surrounding community. This year, more master of public administration interns were hired from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah to continue the project. 

John Rock is the management analyst with West Valley City who oversaw the interns’ work this summer.

“We went around and looked at parks and noticed that Maple Meadows had a lot of space that would be great for art,” said Rock about the long concrete retaining walls and small pavilion with pillars. After batting around concepts with Whiting, the team focused on the four elements of earth, wind, fire and water because they felt it best showed off the nature of Utah. 

Around 40 volunteers from the neighborhood and community helped paint the walls that Whiting and his team lined out and put primer on earlier in the day after interns Blake Simpson and Yusuke Asai handed out flyers inviting people to come. 

“A lot of people who live around the park came by with their kids to help,” said Rock. “Getting that kind of community involvement is great.”

Entire families came to enjoy refreshments and chat with their neighbors while painting the designs on the concrete while Whiting, his former student and full-time assistant, Lindsay Nielson, and part-time assistants supervised. 

“I’vebeen really surprised by the level of community support that I’ve received from the community projects,” said Whiting, who added he was pleased at the way West Valley advertised the event. “The way that cities are able to stand out is by creating places that are unique and inspire the imagination.”

The Parks and Recreation Department is looking into future projects with West Valley’s parks including Centennial Park where they have contracted with local graffiti artist, Wilson Hayes, to design a pirate-themed mural to match the theme of the playground.

“He’s done some great projects around the city. He’s a really talented guy and I hope we can keep working with him in the future,” said Rock who is glad that the parks will have a complete theme like Pirate Park and Elements Park rather than just the name, making it a destination park. 

Parkview Park will also be getting artistically updated soon as well with a sports theme.

Rock said he’s been pleased with how well the interns were able to take a concept like this and get it done in six weeks as well as how favorably the city and community responded. 

“They did a fantastic job. I think it’s been a great experience for them,” said Rock. 

The event also gave community members the opportunity to express concerns directly with the project planning department as well as open channels for them to express future ideas, which is what Rock said the city is hoping for. 

“Getting people in the community to come to the city and say we really like what you did with this park, is this something we could do in our own park?” said Rock. “We’re giving people permission to do something great in their own community.”