TheUltimate Appearance Salon building on Main Street is home to a new, 500-square foot mural: “Our River of Many Fish” by Minneapolis-based artist Greta McLain. McLain, with her brother and lead assistant Eammon McLain, led community painting parties and completed and installed the mural in just eight days in September – the shortest window of time they’ve ever had for a project like this.
The project was a collaboration between McLain’s business, Goodspace Murals, and the Ashtabula Arts Center. Ultimate Appearance owner Jane Haines offered her building as the site for the mural. Arts Center Executive Director Meeghan Humphrey says McLain’s murals typically take weeks, or even months, to complete. “Greta was happy with the end result and relieved that the mural was finished successfully in that short window. And she was thrilled with the level of involvement and enthusiasm from community participants we received. This compressed process made for a unique experience for those participants, too, since the fast turnaround from painting to installation meant they could see the artwork they helped create go up almost instantly.”
The Ohio Arts Council, who gave the Arts Center an $8,000 grant for the project, included a photo of the Ashtabula mural in their annual report to the National Endowment for the Arts, and also interviewed Humphrey about the process and the difference between a regular mural installation, where the end product is the focus, and this project, where inclusion of a community is the driving force.
McLain paints the mural on separate panels of polytab material which are then applied to the building with an adhesive gel. The final layer of overpainting is done once the mural is up, adding details and camouflaging the seams between panels. This process allows community members to participate in the painting process on the ground, sharing in the creation of the mural. McLain led a two-day workshop at the Arts Center in which she taught the technique to local artists. Additional funding for the project was provided by the Ashtabula Foundation, the Ashtabula Downtown Development Association, and AAC donor Christine Lovejoy.
“It’s exciting to be able to put something large-scale in a public place and know it will be there for decades,” Humphrey commented. “The hope is that it will serve as a seed for more public art and the revitalization to come.”
Ohio Arts Council helped fund the arts center with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.