Journal of Housing & Community Development

Beautifying Buildings and More: The Collaboration Between NiREACH and Eudora Baker

December 21, 2022
by Eudora Baker, Alanna Conard, Emily Schwartz and Alan Zais
Eudora Baker (right) with one her many pieces of artwork.

Eudora Baker is one of 150 residents at Collier Gardens Apartments in Rockford, Illinois, (Winnebago County) which is part of the NiREACH (formerly Winnebago County Housing Authority).

She is not only mother to a son and daughter and a proud owner of a feisty Yorkshire Terrier named “Rascal”, but also an amazing artist She paints paintings in oils and pastels, sketches, and takes photographs. In 2021, these talents inspired NiREACH to reach out to her.

NiREACH had built a telehealth center at Collier Garden to bring onsite health care to the senior and disabled residents, ensuring convenience and building trust through the use of students from a College of Nursing.  In order to make the telehealth clinic feel warmer and less clinical, NiREACH asked Eudora if we could use her photos, transferred to canvas, to decorate the walls, and she was happy to help.  Eudora took photos of unique places throughout the city and county, which were then printed on canvas, framed and placed in the clinic.

Eudora’s artistic contributions to NiREACH aren’t limited to her paintings. She loves to take pictures at resident functions, and took a 1st place, Impact Award for Photography at a local art show.  She also works with children at NiREACH’s holiday art parties to help create the agency’s holiday cards. The agency then personalizes the cards for members of HUD at the state, local and national levels, and community leaders such as mayors and city councils, county chairs and their boards, state Senators and members of Congress, and our national Senate and Congressional leaders.

The next collaboration between Eudora and NiREACH was murals for the Collier Garden walls.  A $10 million disaster allocation Low Income Housing Tax Credit rehab program, Collier Garden was completely transformed, but the management felt that it still lacked what was needed to make it feel like a home. 

Many other housing authorities collaborate with artists on beautification projects.  For example, the Cook Inlet Housing Authority has used the work of a neighborhood artist on the walls of the rehabbed church of the Nave, which was now a community center. NiREACH staff was inspired by the Nave, and, decided that resident-created murals for Collier Garden would help to both beautify the building and create a sense of ownership among those who live there.

When the management at NiREACH/Winnebago County Housing Authority presented the idea to Eudora, she enthusiastically wanted to be a part of making this a reality.  A grant, in the amount of $1,237.14, from a local philanthropic organization, was awarded to Collier Gardens to fund the murals.  This money enabled Eudora and the staff at Collier to purchase the items needed for painting and photo canvas.  The project was off and running.

Eudora then recruited her Collier Garden neighbors, leading this project along with the neighbor volunteers assisting her in creating the designs, designating each design to a wall in one of the wings and painting the murals.   Eudora and her neighbors are currently painting the murals on the walls of five wings (10 walls total) to bring a splash of color to the inside of their building.  This community collaboration will provide beauty to the hallways and pride of ownership to the residents.  In addition, Collier is also collaborating with a local youth organization by offering young people experience in preparing and priming the walls for the mural painting.

Eudora’s goal is to create a more inviting and warmer environment for all the residents.  She believes her art is to be shared and in doing so, it creates joy and brings her friends, neighbors, and especially the children together at their home, the Collier community.

Eudora Baker is an artist.

Alanna Conard is the Vice-Chairman of NiREACH.

Emily Schwartz is a NiREACH Resident Opportunities and Supportive Services Coordinator.

Alan Zais is the Executive Director ofNiREACH .

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