SOUTH SHORE — South Shore has been named "Neighborhood of the Year" from the Neighborhoods USA for a community garden project.
“We deserved to win,” said Mary Steenson, a founder of the garden at 75th Street and Coles Avenue. “Everyone worked hard on their projects, but not everyone put in the time and had the level of commitment we did.”
Steenson said she was nervous when she had to get up in front of the judges over the weekend and admit that the garden’s signature mural had been destroyed just two weeks before the conference.
“All the judges had seen this mural and knew how proud we were when it went up,” Steenson said. “They were just looking at me like, “What!?!”
The mural was damaged on May 4 and the owner had to tear the cracked stucco off the wall days later, destroying the mural — and Steenson’s hopes of winning the award.
Despite the setbacks, the judges for the group that promotes community revitalization projects still picked South Shore’s garden over projects in Eugene, Ore., and Palm Springs, Fla.
Steenson said she immediately put the $500 cash prize into a fund to redo the mural by artist Desi Mundo and is trying to figure out a way put the plaque up next to the community table at the garden.
Mundo was out at the garden on Tuesday working on a mural that was to be a companion piece to the destroyed work, which he painted last summer on a trip home to the South Side from Oakland, Calif.
He said he had about two days of work left, as he added a monarch butterfly above a deep blue river that flowed toward a mother and child under an apple tree.
“I was painting a butterfly and I heard bzzz, bzzz, bzzz, and now I have to add a bee,” Mundo said, pointing to a small gap in a field of leaves where he was thinking of painting the bee.
He said one the last things to paint was two large blue curtains that will frame a makeshift screen for gardeners to project movies on the side of the building.
Steenson wants to get Mundo back soon to repaint the other mural.
“Any kind of revitalization work, you make some big strides and you get knocked a step back,” Steenson said. “We have to get that mural back up.”
She said she is hoping to expand the garden to a neighboring lot to add more raised beds for gardeners in the near future and is dreaming of an art gallery opening across the street.
“The grand plan is this is the beginning of revitalizing 75th Street,” Steenson said.
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