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updated: 10/6/2013 4:19 PM

Wheaton unveils "Pearls of the Universe" tribute to city's diversity

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  • Henry Schnabel of Wheaton examines the new mural, "Pearls of the Universe" unveiled in the village Sunday. The 70-foot mural, created by artist R.J. Ogren celebrates diversity in Wheaton. It was inspired by a poem written by Mehret Asgedom, who came to Wheaton as an Ethiopian refugee when she was a child.

       Henry Schnabel of Wheaton examines the new mural, "Pearls of the Universe" unveiled in the village Sunday. The 70-foot mural, created by artist R.J. Ogren celebrates diversity in Wheaton. It was inspired by a poem written by Mehret Asgedom, who came to Wheaton as an Ethiopian refugee when she was a child.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Fletcher Ogren, 6, of Villa Park visits with his grandfather, R.J. Ogren, at the unveiling ceremony Sunday of his "Pearls of the Universe" mural in Wheaton. The 70-foot mural, created to celebrate the community's diversity, was inspired the poem "The Pearl," written by Mehret Asgedom, who came to Wheaton as an Ethiopian refugee when she was a child.

       Fletcher Ogren, 6, of Villa Park visits with his grandfather, R.J. Ogren, at the unveiling ceremony Sunday of his "Pearls of the Universe" mural in Wheaton. The 70-foot mural, created to celebrate the community's diversity, was inspired the poem "The Pearl," written by Mehret Asgedom, who came to Wheaton as an Ethiopian refugee when she was a child.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

 
Daily Herald report

"Pearls of the Universe," a 70-foot-wide mural just east of Wheaton's downtown, was dedicated Sunday as a symbol of the city's diversity and to celebrate the impact immigrants have had on the community's growth and success.

Funded primarily by the city's fine arts and community relations commissions along with private donations, the $6,000 work of art on the side of Jeannine Clinton's Essencia Yoga studio at 1026 College Ave. was painted by R.J. Ogren, a retired Disney artist. The mural tells the story of Wheaton's immigrants and some of the individual journeys that brought them together in the heart of DuPage County.

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"I am thrilled with this project. It has turned into a major piece of work for me," Ogren said Sunday.

Ogren began work on the mural in mid-July, taking his inspiration from a poem, "Pearl," written by Mehret Asgedom. Now in her 10th year as a language arts teacher at Franklin Middle School, Asgedom moved to Wheaton from Ethiopia in the 1980s.

Among those there for Sunday's unveiling was Laurie Swanson Oberhelman.

"This is all about immigration, diversity, and people coming together," she said.

"We have been following this since it started and we are fascinated by it," added city resident Henry Schnabel.

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