New Autumn helps Palumbo Park come alive

Look east from the corner at 8th and Catharine streets, and the bright washes of color in David Guinn’s new mural instantly catch your eye. Tall trees in full autumnal bursts of red and orange give way to a yellow clearing in this fantasy forest. It is a new variation on the theme of autumn in Bella Vista, and a positive outcome for neighbors who were disappointed to see Guinn’s original mural Autumn: Your House in the Forest (part of his Four Seasons series)  covered up by new construction at the corner of 9th and Bainbridge.

As EOTS reported in June, Mural Arts Program responded to the loss of Guinn’s Autumn by teaming up with Fleisher Art Memorial to add a new fall-themed artwork to one of Fleisher’s exterior walls overlooking Palumbo Park. And in the late days of 2012, David Guinn put the finishing touches on a new autumnal mural overlooking the park on the 700 block of Catharine Street.

When I caught up with Guinn recently he said he felt more resolved about the lifecycle of his Autumns – new and old. All things must pass.

While the earlier Autumn mural was a bit lonely, this work, tentatively called Autumn Revisited, feels full of life. As in the original, there are children: The two Zack kids (who were represented in the original Autumn on their family’s 9th Street house) are seen here again, a decade later, along with Guinn’s own young daughter. This time around a doe and fawn graze together, taking the place of a solo deer.

The new mural works remarkably well at different scales. It is lively from the street and surprisingly serene (given the bright palette) from within the park. The energetic yellow initially struck me as a bold choice, but I appreciated it more standing inside the park. It is the yellow of ginkgo leaves in the fall – almost acid, and brilliant against a gray sky.

Up close the Guinn’s dramatically oversized brushstrokes feel playful and active. The left side of the artwork has a distinctly clean and soft quality of a watercolor, achieved by luminous glazes. These painterly exaggerations are Guinn’s explicit nod to the art making inside Fleisher.

The greatest victory here may not be in Guinn’s new mural itself but what it has done to rejuvenate the drab, aging hardscape of Palumbo Park. The new work replaces a dreary old mural, and breathes freshness into the otherwise boring plaza.

Palumbo Park is on one of Bella Vista’s loveliest blocks, but the park is a poorly designed public space. It is elevated and fenced, with only one exit making it feel less open than it should. Its pavers and lonesome benches are tired. By far the park’s loveliest feature are its tall sycamores, which Guinn carried into his mural, helping to visually connect the physical and fantasy spaces.

Palumbo Park is a quiet and contemplative space to Guinn. “In some ways that’s what I hope was kind of the spirit of the mural,” he said, adding that his aim was to “continue that vibe of a place that is serene and a place for the mind to rest.”

A formal dedication of the mural will take place in spring. Here’s what it looks like now:

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal