The design for the mural came about as an agreement between members of the Croatian community and artists. (Photo: CroatianMuralProject) The design for the mural came about as an agreement between members of the Croatian community and artists. (Photo: CroatianMuralProject)

The biggest city in the American state of Nebraska, Omaha, has been adorned with a Croatian mural. It was ceremonially uncovered in Croatian Statehood Day, when the Croatian community gathered for Holy mass and with Croatian song celebrated the 26th year of the Homeland’s independence and a work of art that celebrates the cultural heritage of Croats in central USA.

The map and flag of Croatia, Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, a Marian procession, tamburitza groups and girls in traditional folk costumes with Easter baskets full of food to be blessed, are just a part of the motifs within the mural dedicated to the Croatian community in Southern Omaha. It was developed in conjunction with the South Omaha Mural project, which through a series of murals promotes the culture, history and ethnic heritage of immigrants in this American city. The mural was created by artists Rebecca Van Ornam, Maggie Heusinkvelt, Quintin Slovek and Richard Harrison.

The design for the mural came about as an agreement between members of the Croatian community and artists. (Photo: CroatianMuralProject)

“In various neighborhoods of Omaha live people of differing ethnic backgrounds. At the beginning of the 20th century, many people emigrated here because this was the biggest centre in the world where livestock was traded. Many people emigrated here in the 1900’s from Croatia, most from northern regions. They are formally a part of the neighborhood around the Catholic parish church of St Peter and Paul. Father Zapotnik gathered 150 Croatian and Slovenian families and collected money door to door for the construction of the church”, explained Harrison. The Croatian community is still active today however there are not that many people that speak the Croatian language, he noted.

Within the mural there is a portrait of Cardinal Blaise Cupich whose grandfather assisted in collecting money for the construction of the St. Peter and Paul parish in 1917. This is why the mural has been dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the founding of the parish.

The mural contains a portrait of Cardinal Stepinac and father Zapotnik who is responsible for building the parish church. (Photo: CroatianMuralProject)

The mosaic of the mural, the mosaic of the people

“Before the creation of the mural, artists and members of the Croatian community met several times, in order to share their memories. They remembered their favorite Croatian foods, customs and jobs that especially connect them to the Homeland. We also found out that there are many mosaics in Croatia, for example on the church of St. Mark. For the development of this Croatian mural we organized a drive for coloring in which about twenty people took part, and for most of the time four artists worked on the mural”, says Harrison.

Besides the Croatian mural, the hardworking team of artists is also responsible for the Polish, Lithuanian, Mexican and Southern Omaha murals displaying the entire immigrant community of differing nations. It is also their desire to show the Irish, Jewish, German, Italian and African American communities on murals as well.

“We want to build bridges between people. This can also be fun. During the drive to collect money all sit together: Polish and Croats and Mexicans. They talk of the old times, when everyone spoke their own language and nobody understood each other. They all remembered their grandfathers. We are shaping a new Southern Omaha that we are proud of even though we have problems. We are troubled with how to finance ourselves, who to choose at elections, how to build roads and gardens. However, the more we bring people together, the more we will be able to resolve and the communities will better understand each other”, concludes Harrison.