reposted from the Ashland Cherryland Garden & Arts Network (ACGAN) blog

The Ashland Cherryland Garden & Arts Network and The Community Rejuvenation Project (CRP)  have nearly completed a week-long transformation project in South Cherryland, an unincorporated community on Hayward’s border. The blank and blighted A Street liquor store parking lot received some refreshed soil and wildflower seeds, while CRP produced yet another destination-creating mural for the East Bay.

The final wall contains cultural references, sacred symbols, and meaningful characters, all of which were improvised as the collaborative interacted with the people and the space. The wall’s name, Amor Cura (Love Heals), was artfully written by Desi W.O.M.E. and Release and connects the wall’s characters: Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, Thich Naht Hahn, and Maria Sabina, a Mazatec curandera, who healed thousands of people through the use of native plants and technologies.

As residents of the borderland communities of Ashland and Cherryland embark on a community-wide planning process to solidify their place as the East Bay’s Farm & Garden District, the goal of the project was to create a gateway the same theme. This is the first in a series of murals the Network has planned throughout the neighborhoods, telling the story of the creation of the Garden District.

At the center of the mural, two arms marked with references to the elements of Mother Nature, grasp in togetherness, layered over a heart, again layered over a sacred symbol of unity. (Uh, Yeah, That’s not easy to do.) The pulsing heart at the centerpiece of the mural is also a beet, with greens growing from the top, representing the root of the community, home and hearth. The bordering City of Hayward has idenfied itself as the “Heart of the Bay.” CRP has identified the Ashland Cherryland Garden District as the“HeartBeet!”

Humor aside, the need for Ashland Cherryland to come together and lift ourselves and each other is palpable. Many arts organizations may have come into this neighborhood and tried to paint something pastoral or lovely, to cover-up and pretend there isn’t a grief that lives here; as if paint can cover a spirit of tension. Likely they would try create a Garden District by painting pictures of gardens and fruits. (And CRP has done some gorgeous garden and fruit murals! Check out their work on the Richmond Greenway!)

Instead, as the neighborhood watched the CRP team bring symbols of unity and non-violence to life on the wall, those neighbors also shook hands with Susi Beck, Shanale Allen or other Garden District Network team members to join the mission to bring healthy food and art to our neighborhood.

The CRP collective’s intense study and re-interpretation of cultural references and symbolism make it impossible to list every symbolic meaning infused into Amor Cura. That is the beauty of these references: they are understood in the heart, feeding us what we need at that time. Just like truly nourishing food, a healthy community, and a funky beat.

Please join us tomorrow for a Rampage of Appreciation for Desi W.O.M.E, Mike Threesixty, Pancho Pescador, and Release.  DJ Andonis will be on the turntables, we’ll have the cardboard dancefloor rockin, and we hear there are cool kids with bicycles planning a CycleStorm. 1pm – 3pm – A Street & Princeton. 

Amor Cura is a project of the Ashland Cherryland Food Policy Group, The Network, and private donations. Special thanks to Mandela Marketplace and Dana Harvey. It is the fourth CRP Bay Area mural collaboration with The Network in the Ashland Cherryland communities.