By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Bret Harte Elementary School, 1556 E. 56th St., will have a mural after winning the South East Chicago Commission’s (SECC) Neighborhood Beautification Award.
Beth Herring, Parent Advisor of Friends of Bret Harte and Local School Chair of Bret Harte, is excited about receiving the grant, saying, “We’re very thankful to SECC for providing these funds for us to brighten up a corner of our neighborhood. We are really excited to work with Green Star Movement, an organization that has installed murals on a lot of public schools. We think that the mural will add a really pretty space to an important building in Hyde Park.”
Out of 26 applications, Friends of Bret Hart’s mural project was one of twelve projects that received the grant along with other Hyde Park organizations, Hyde Park Historical Society, Midway Plaisance Advisory Council, Nichols Park Advisory Council and Augustana Lutheran Church. The SECC’s grant focuses on beautification projects to impact the quality of life amongst residents by increasing the walkability of a neighborhood.
“We’re really happy about Bret Hart’s mural project. Bret Harte’s location is so important because it is a gateway to Hyde Park and into the greater south side by the lake. Not only does it increase walkability, but it creates a welcoming to our community,” said Diane Burnham, Executive Director of the SECC
“We want to change the negative perception of the south side by doing positive things that change how people see the south side. That’s a huge part of our work that we do with economic development,” Burnham said.
According to Herring, the mural project has been an idea that the Friends of Bret Harte has worked on for years but could not fundraise enough money on their own. She said “It is something that we wanted to do for a long time. It was expensive and we’re always raising money for other things. We try to put most of the money that we raise towards students.”
Herring sees the mural as a way to celebrate the history of Bret Harte over time and emphasize the beauty of the old school building for commuters who pass the school on their way to the Museum of Science and Industry, the Metra station or those who enter and exit Hyde Park by car.
Although the group has not started working on the concept for the mural, the theme of will reflect values that are important to Bret Harte’s community like leadership, building community, growing empathy, and self-confidence.