Painted flowers set to bloom in Grant neighborhood

A design for the cherry blossom mural which will be painted in the Grant neighborhood over Fourth of July weekend. It’s the first street mural approved as part of Salem’s new street painting program. (Courtesy/Grant Neighborhood Association)

Where it started depends on who you ask. There was a letter to the Mayor. Another to the City Council. A request to the neighborhood association. But Erika Baker remembers it as a conversation with her neighbor. 

Lifelong Salem resident Baker had been trying to move into the Grant neighborhood in central Salem for years. Last summer, she officially moved in and by August had chatted with a neighbor, Laura Herrmann, about projects happening around the nation that combined neighborhood spirit with art. 

Nearly a year later with a city code change and a lot of neighborhood effort, the Grant neighborhood will see a mural painted this weekend on the corner of Northeast Belmont Street. and Northeast Cottage Street. 

“We started in November with letters to the Mayor and Council asking if we could do this,” said Grant Neighborhood Association Board Member Susan Napack. 

“It had never been done before,” she said, “so the city had to come up with a way to do it and see if anything had to be changed in terms of code.”

Previously, the mural process for businesses included a proposal submission to the city, a fee, a public hearing and easements as well as a promise to maintain the mural for at least seven years. The mural process for streets was non-existent – city code prohibited people from painting murals on streets within city limits. 

On June 13, the council approved a change to the code that would allow the mural to go forward as part of the City of Salem Street Painting Program. Councilors previously voted to establish the program in January.

The Grant neighborhood mural will be the first project.

During the months-long process with the city, the Grant Neighborhood Association plowed forward opening up a design competition in the neighborhood which Baker won with her cherry blossom design. 

“I wanted something bright and colorful but that represented Salem,” Baker said. “I thought it would be nice since the cherry blossoms don’t last long, to have them longer.” 

The association will tap into about $350 of the funds it gets from the city to complete the project with Miller Paint offering some free paint and discounts on supplies. 

Baker, who has another neighborhood mural on display at Broadway Coffeehouse, will be leading the painting but the entire neighborhood is pitching in. 

“We’ll clean the intersection first and then there’s the primer and drawing it out and adding color,” Napack said. 

It will all culminate in a block party on July 4 where the new artwork will be revealed. 

While Baker will be painting it, she said it represents much more than her. 

“It’s not just me,” she said. “It’s the neighborhood and how we all worked hard to make this happen.”

Contact reporter Caitlyn May at [email protected].

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