Mural Journal

Sharon O'Hara-Bruce

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Journal For The Los Galanes Mural
"Diversity Is Our Strength"

    We painted the Los Galanes Restaurant Mural for Freedom House in the summer of 1995. Janet Rey was the director of Freedom House in Detroit at that time. Janet had gotten enough grant money to finance the project, and she had also gotten permission from Seņor Armando Galan to use the back wall of his restaurant, Los Galanes on Bagley Avenue in Southwest Detroit for the mural. The project took five weeks. Over 75 people of all ages, races and many national origins participated, and it was a peak experience for many participants. It is still there in very good condition and with no graffiti on it. Sharon O'Hara-Bruce coordinated the project along with Anne Jantz and Elizabeth Medallin.

    Freedom House is a shelter for political refugees from around the world, so the title of the mural, "Diversity Is Our Strength" was very dear to the hearts of the organizers.  Sharon and the other coordinators of the project spent many afternoons with the refugees who were living at Freedom House. The design was chosen from art submitted for a contest that Freedom House conducted in the High School art classes in Southwest Detroit.

    Southwest Detroit is predominantly Latino with Spanish speaking people from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central and South America. There are many Latino restaurants in the area as well as tortilla factories, Mexican bakeries and Mexican crafts shops. The mural is only a few blocks from the Ambassador Bridge which connects Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. to Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

The Wall Before


       The wall we chose to paint the mural on is 35' x 50' and is constructed of stucco. First  we had to remove the sign hanging on the wall, and then we steam washed the wall. It is a north wall, and rarely gets direct sunshine which has helped the paint to last.


The young man with the roller is Clinton Boisvert, one of the teens who worked on the mural. He is a friend of Matthew Jantz, the teen who painted the German man in the mural. Clint recently made a splash in the art world when he placed several boxes with the word "FEAR" painted on them in a subway station in New York City as part of an art school assignment. Just key his name into any search engine and read about Clint in several languages. Clint did a lot of work on the mural long before he was famous.

Priming The Wall

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We decided to use Craigie Paint products for the mural. Craigie Paint Co. is a Detroit company that manufactures their own paint. We took the sketches for the mural to Craigie Paint, and they custom mixed the colors for the mural. Craigie Paint recommended we prime the wall with a light, neutral tone of the same exterior latex paint we planned to use for the design. Not only would that give us a good color background to work on, but it also would give the paint a good base to cling on to. It certainly worked, since the mural looks great 8 years later.

Matthew Jantz Assembling the Scaffolding

We knew we would definitely need scaffolding for the project. We found a rental business in Warren, Michigan, rented a trailer, and hauled the scaffolding down to the mural site. Anne Jantz's son, Matthew had no apparent fear of heights as he assembled the scaffolding.


     We also rented a scissor lift which lifted the painters up and down the wall with hydraulics. Matthew Jantz and his sister, Kathryn Jantz painted the three flags for North America, Canada, U.S.A., and Mexico at the top of the mural.
     We wanted to accommodate all age groups and all skill levels in this project, so we designated the bottom portion of the wall to children so that they didn't need to use any scaffolding.

Matt Jantz Painting the U.S. Flag

Judy Alan and Anne Jantz

     We painted the wall green up to the height of 5 feet and allowed children and adults to paint anything they wanted with only a few rules; 1) no offensive language or ethnic slurs, 2) paint something you would see in a park or out in the country, 3) do not paint on anyone else's work.
   The simpler flags across the bottom and up both sides could be assigned to adults and teens who weren't experienced in art. They felt less challenged, and they were able to contribute to the project. Of course the more complicated flags were chosen by more art savvy people. 
       We had many incidents with the flags that reinforced the emotional connections between people and their flags. Sharon O'Hara-Bruce was up on the scaffolding helping Darius Garza, a fine young artist as he painted the Korean flag when a  family walked by. The young children were adopted twin sisters from Korea. They pointed up to Darius and Sharon and one exclaimed, "Look Mommy, they are painting our flag!" The children's joy was matched by Darius's pleasure in having created it for them.


Sharon O'Hara-Bruce and Darius Garza  Painting the Korean Flag

Joanna Becker Painting Flags

     The diversity of nationalities was extensive in the project, and the diversity of the Americans that participated was also impressive. Joanna Becker is an Automotive Designer who counts photography, traveling and volunteerism as her main interests. She was one of the techies that showed up for the mural. We also had Computer Programmers, Engineers, Social Workers, Teachers, college students, high school students, and a plethora of Art Therapists from Wayne State University.
       Several Art Therapists from Wayne State University painted the  majority of the people in ethnic costumes in the mural. Babs Henkel painted the Irish Woman; Rachel Grayson, the African King; Anne Jantz, the Dutch Woman, the Arabic Man, and the seated Chinese Girl; Judy Alan, the Mariachi Man, and the Indian Woman, Suzanne Drobeck, the Polish Woman; and Kurt Klein painted the Greek Man. Other painters included Matthew Jantz- the German Man, Kathryn Jantz- the Scottish Girl, Sharon O'Hara-Bruce  - the Viet Namese woman, the Native American woman holding the torch, and the Somalian man; and Doreen Garza, - the Mexican Woman. Bill Jantz painted the Ambassador Bridge and the slogan. Jorge Casarez, a supervisor from Southwest Detroit Community Mental Health painted the two skylines with help from his nephews.

Bill Jantz painting the Ambassador Bridge &
Suzie Drobeck Painting the Polish Woman

The People Start To Materialize - Sharon O'Hara-Bruce On The Wall
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Jorge Casarez Painting City Skyline

Bill Jantz & Jorge Casarez On The Wall



Late Afternoon Sun
On The Mural




Bill Jantz Adds The
Finishing Touch -
The Title -
"Diversity Is
Our Strength"


Finished Mural at Los Galanes Restaurant, Detroit, MI 
"Diversity Is Our Strength"
(35' x 50')

After the mural was completed, we had a  reception right there in the parking lot under the mural. Most of the participants were there for the event and many family members also attended. Sharon's husband, the late Barry Bruce was there proudly supporting his wife in her accomplishment.

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