Reflecting Community

African Designs Inspire Glass Tile Murals

by Christina M. Woods, The Wichita Eagle   June 10, 2005

Valor. Leadership. Bravery. These characteristics are represented by the 25,000 pieces of hand-laid glass tile that decorate the new Charles Shoots Fire Station No. 10.The fire station at the corner of 21st and Chautauqua in northeast Wichita is scheduled to open this summer. Shoots was the first African-American employed with the Wichita Fire Department.

Tina Murano, the project artist, said she wanted the decorations to recognize the neighborhood's predominately
African-American culture. To help fulfill her vision, Murano enlisted help from her family and Greg Lugrand, a Wichita school district employee whose great-grandfather was the first African-American captain in the Wichita Fire Department.

Last weekend, they finished installing the red, black, orange, yellow and green glass tiles into a design that resembles Kente cloth - fabric bearing African designs. Now they're awaiting the station's completion and opening, which could happen by mid-July, project officials said.

"We had 10-hour days and 14-hour days," Murano said about the installation. "It was pretty intense."
But it had to be perfect, she said. "I wanted to do right for the community," said Murano, an art teacher at Northeast Magnet High School and owner of Murano Studios. "It's a public art project, and I always try to keep in mind who I'm making the project for."

Four Northeast students researched African symbols, Kente cloth and masks, which inspired Murano's design.
"The colors were so simple, but when put together, it looked cool," said Shirelle Hysell, who worked on the project with Brenna Lyle, Arianna Meyer and Erin Garcia.

Lugrand said helping install the art was an honor, especially when thinking of his great-grandfather, George Walter Robinson, an African-American who joined the Wichita Fire Department in 1896 and was eventually promoted to captain at Fire Station No. 3.  "I know it will be great for the community," Lugrand said.

The new fire station will replace a station at 17th and Grove that was built in 1949, Deputy Fire Chief Mike Rudd said. The construction is part of a larger 10-year plan to relocate stations in part to improve response times, Fire Department officials say.

"The distance this station's being moved won't drastically affect response times, but the old station was so old and so tiny that it wouldn't hold all of our apparatus," Rudd said. "We're excited to finally have enough room."
In addition to regular fire crews and equipment, the 9,043-square-foot station will also hold the city's hazardous material response crews and equipment, Gossen Livingston Architects said .

Mark Jordan, a firefighter with the hazardous materials unit who will move to the new station, said he is pleased that the community was considered in the design. Jordan said the new station fits in with the other renovations and updates being made along 21st Street.

J.C. Garrett, a longtime Wichitan who lives near the new fire station, said he's glad that those responsible for decorations took time to research the symbols instead of just using them because they were African-inspired.
Garrett, who remembers the old fire station being built, said he is proud of the care being taken with the new station.

"That's the way it should be," he said.