If you’ve passed a 1905 two-story house on Cleveland Street near E. 13th Street lately, you’ve probably noticed something striking about the place: A new mural by Joseph “Sentrock” Perez was installed at the end of June. It depicts a masked figure nearly 15 feet tall speaking the words “We learned to fly without wings.” The figure’s arm sports a tattoo with the words “blood, sweat, [and] years.”
Perez says his work is intended to be a reflection of the Capitol Park neighborhood where it is located. Ultimately, as is often the case in Perez’s work, the mural’s message is one of hope and empowerment.
"It’s about a character that represents the community, a community learning to grow and excel without wings. Because just what I got from the time I was there, was that the community is for the most part long-time residents who are very rooted in the area, but not necessarily showing off. A very hard working demographic that wants to see the area grow, but in an organic way,” said Perez, an Arizona native now working as an artist and arts educator in Chicago.
Community Housing Initiatives owns the home, which due to its condition is slated for demolition later this year and eventual reconstruction as a new single-family home. Community Development Director Brian Bonanno said installing the artwork calls attention to the transition facing vacant homes in Des Moines East Bank neighborhoods.
“We just wanted to do something positive for the neighborhood with this home's remaining time. Our hope though is that by changing this one house we can start a wider conversation about the vacant homes and buildings scattered around our neighborhoods and how we can work together to utilize those spaces in ways that give back to the community,” Bonanno said.
Indeed, Capitol Park was one of several Des Moines neighborhoods impacted significantly by the national housing market collapse of 2008 and 2009. More recently, a coalition of residents, nonprofits and city officials are working together to spur revitalization in the area through the Viva East Bank! initiative.
Community Housing Initiatives is participating in that effort by purchasing—and where possible, rehabilitating—homes in the area. We expect to have three additional home renovations in the neighborhood completed and on the market this summer after we completed our first late last year.
Bonanno will help complete several other art installations in the Viva East Bank! neighborhoods in the coming months as well as part of Project Reinvest, a national initiative to support revitalization in neighborhoods affected by the foreclosure crisis that will support rehabilitation repair and demolition of several troubled properties on Des Moines’ East Side.
Working on his art installation, Perez said he sensed the neighborhood’s energy and hope for the future.
“I'm just glad I could bring some color to a house that was an eye sore for the neighbors. The feedback was amazing and I had nothing but great feedback. I had a great time Des Moines, [and I] can't wait to be back," he said.