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Providence Community Center to unveil ‘first of its kind’ parking lot mural

Updated at 1:15 p.m. — The mural unveiling has been postponed to Friday, June 30, due to potential inclement weather this afternoon, Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services says.

Earlier: Community members will be able to enjoy a colorful new mural in the parking lot of the Providence Community Center (3001 Vaden Drive) today, June 26.

Set to take place from 4-6 p.m., the mural unveiling event will include family-oriented activities and games, snacks and face painting. Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik will lead the ribbon-cutting ceremony, with Neighborhood and Community Services officials on hand for the event.

Without enough physical space to expand the center’s outdoor facilities and build a playground, NCS instead created the parking lot mural as an alternative means of engaging with the community and providing kids with increased outdoor programming, the county says.

“We thought this was a good idea and a good use of space to have a place where children can come out and play outside,” NCS Division Director Chris Scales said.

According to the county, the mural is the “first of its kind” at an NCS center.

The vision for the mural was brought to life by several artists of color, including muralist Kendra “Kay” Lee, Artbae and Artbae Foundation founder Cary Michael Robinson and NCS staffer LaShari Celistan.

Celistan, who is also a member of Artbae, initially “brokered” the partnership between the Maryland-based artist collective and NCS, which led Robinson to enlist Lee as the artistic lead of the project, Lee says.

Lee noted that the project’s primary goal was to create a “bright” and “interactive” space for children.

“Before, [kids] would just come out and play in the end of the parking lot with balls and stuff like that,” Lee said. “There was nothing really to do.”

To carry out this goal, Lee and NCS decided to pair “nature” and “popular games” as the mural’s dual theme. Lee spent three weeks painting both nature-related images — such as bees, sunflowers, snails, leaves and a caterpillar — and childhood favorites, like hopscotch, four-square and a racing track.

“[I wanted to make] sure that the kids could relate to the things that we were putting on the ground,” Lee said.

The team also tried to incorporate as much community feedback as possible, taking into consideration comments made by community members passing by as Lee worked to complete the mural. For instance, Lee says she and NCS decided to scale down certain interactive paintings after several parents remarked that their children were too small to jump between designated spaces.

“This is their neighborhood, and it’s important to them,” Lee said. “…So we definitely wanted to make sure that they…felt included in the end product.”

As the pioneer behind an art-based community engagement project, Lee expressed that she hopes the county continues these types of projects and “look[s] forward to doing more.”

“I’m just excited for the reveal and excited to actually get the feedback from the community because at the end of the day, I just hope that my idea and [Celistan’s] idea and the things that we put together really meets the needs of that area,” Lee said.

Attendees of the mural unveiling will also have the opportunity to vote on a new name for the community center, which is set to be renamed in honor of former Providence District Supervisor Jim Scott. Voting is open through Monday, June 26, and votes can also be cast online.

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