Monarch butterflies have taken their spring flight above the busy intersection of Orange Avenue and Del Amo Boulevard.

Meanwhile, a vivid mural — initiated by members of the Ridgewood Triangle Neighborhood Association and painted by volunteers — was just completed and features imagery of those endangered butterflies taking flight.

Citing constant traffic and frequent issues with graffiti, retired teacher and RTNA member Donna Bergeron-Birge said she wanted to do her part to beautify her neighborhood and create a welcoming feel.

Painted across from Barton Elementary School, which is on the border of Bixby Knolls and North Long Beach, the new monarch mural was funded with the help of the city’s Neighborhood Micro Grant Program.

The monarch mural is located at the intersection of Orange Avenue. and Del Amo Boulevard. in Long Beach. Photo by Christal Gaines-Emory.

“We’ve always been the kind of neighborhood that everybody either drives by or drives through,” Bergeron-Birge said. “I would like to think that it can change, maybe people would like to drive to it and see something beautiful that was community-driven.”

Bergeron-Birge says she has been working tirelessly to improve her area through Clean Streets, a neighborhood-cleanup effort. She also advocated for more crosswalks and other traffic-related safeguards around Barton Elementary School.

Just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bergeron-Birge had gathered a group of her neighbors to discuss ways to improve the neighborhood. But this effort came to a halt soon after. Still, Bergeron-Birge found inspiration for the project through a neighbor who was raising monarch butterflies during the months of lockdown.

“My neighbor would make up these little monarch cabins and let others take them during isolation so everyone could enjoy the monarch from chrysalis form until its release,” Bergeron-Birge said.

The monarch butterfly became a symbol of hope and perseverance for the community during isolation, she said. Eventually, it became her inspiration to share the symbolism that the monarchs evoked in her.

With help from several volunteers and lead artist Shannon Apana, the mural was completed after four weeks of on and off work, even through inclement weather.

Apana got involved in the project originally to help his mother create a beautiful space in the neighborhood. Since then, he has gained his own passion for the project and says he wants to see it expanded.

Lead artist Shannon Apana was inspired to join the project after witnessing his mother’s dedication towards helping the community. Photo by Christal Gaines-Emory. Apana said his mother’s hard work to enhance her community has inspired him to help her in any way he can.

“My mom does a lot for this community. It’s refreshing and nice to see such a positive force doing something good,” Apana said. “I’m really proud to be a part of this too, I don’t even live here but I’m here to help.”

Bergeron-Birge and Apana have received permission to create a mural from the homeowner in charge of the portion of the now-painted wall, Mike Barber. Then, he told them the mural could extend to his shed, where Apana and Barber will be work to extend it vertically in the coming months.

Along with this extension, Bergeron-Birge hopes that the mural will reach both sides of the wall to illustrate a butterfly “migration” that travels across the walls surrounding the neighborhood.

Along with three large monarch butterflies, the mural also features hand-painted California poppies. Photo by Christal Gaines-Emory.

Bergeron-Birge also hopes to use the monarch mural as an educational tool for local students to learn more about butterflies.

Although the first stage of the mural has been completed, Bergeron-Birge and the neighborhood association still have many ideas and plans to help uplift children who live in the community. Their next step will be planting wildflower seeds in front of the mural. They will also apply for more grants to allow for different murals to be painted nearby.

“Hopefully, the neighborhood now feels like we have a sense of place,” she said. “I’d also love to see the murals inspire children to get more involved in art, they’ll be learning all about monarch migration through art so I’d like to see that give them an artistic boost.”

Interested in volunteering? Email Donna Bergeron-Birge at [email protected] for more information.