Atlantic City mural featuring Monopoly draws neighborhood attention

ATLANTIC CITY — Tucked behind a building on Pacific Avenue now is one of the largest murals the city has seen, featuring the Monopoly board, the historic board game based on city streets.

Not so long ago, the site near Texas Avenue was a bare building and an empty lot.

The woman behind the display — Shari Tobias, 49, of Philadelphia — began working on the 20-by-30-foot mural on the same day of the art celebration known as 48 Blocks in the city on June 24. She finished her last touches Friday.

“The idea is to take back the space,” Tobias said. “Let’s try to do something like this where people can come together and own their neighborhood.”

The mural is one of the final aspects of the 48 Blocks effort, which highlighted arts and culture projects throughout the city earlier this summer. Tobias’ mural is a sign the effort has been continuing and still has an effect in the city, said Joyce Hagen, executive director of the Atlantic City Arts Foundation, who helped to create the event.

The community effort was named for the 48 blocks that make up Atlantic City. It was a joint project between the Atlantic City Arts Foundation and Stockton University, which brought different art installations to each of the six wards.

The goal was to aid in fostering civic pride, togetherness and expression — and the event surpassed expectations, Hagen said. The group of organizers already plans to meet next month to start planning the 2018 event.

“Everyone wants to do it again,” Hagen said. “We’re putting all kinds of ideas on the table at this point, and we’re trying to figure where to go next.”

Some art installations that were part of 48 Blocks, such as other murals, painted Adirondack chairs and decorations outside the public library will continue to be on display. The initiative also featured poetry jitneys, ballet and musical performances throughout the city.

At its July 11 meeting, Atlantic City Council passed a resolution of recognition for the organizers and participants of the 48 Blocks initiative.

“We want to share what’s great about Atlantic City,” Hagen said.

For people driving or walking in the city down Pacific Avenue in Ducktown, the mural is an unusual sight. People stop to talk to Tobias while she paints, while others watch her work from their windows.

Hagen said that particular mural has been getting the most attention. However, many of the artists who took part in the 48 Blocks told stories about residents offering refreshments, help or supplies.

The mural on Pacific Avenue faces a community garden that residents share. Tobias said her chats with visitors and neighbors are helping her gather ideas of elements to add to the mural.

Someone even donated scaffolding to her.

“We have a lot of resources in Atlantic City, but we need to recognize that the people are our strongest resource,” she said.

Creating the Monopoly game as the focus and border of the lower left of the mural was something that could relate to everyone, she said, but she also wanted to incorporate the garden. The mural features the words “Pacific Garden,” along with flowers and plants, to point out the garden the neighbors use.

One of those neighbors, Terry Hayduk, 56, watched the mural’s progress from the first Monopoly square Tobias drew in June, to the product that was finished as of Friday.

It’s a bright spot to wake up to in the mornings, she said. Before, the area used to be “depressing.”

“I know she puts so much time in,” Hayduk said. “She spends a lot of time talking to people who walk by, and they’re so happy to see this.”