When Jane Haines’ Main Avenue, Ashtabula salon, Ultimate Appearance, is open she and the stylists who work for her transform hair into art.
Ultimate Appearance was closed on Sunday, but just west of the building, another transformation via art was beginning: The painting of a mural that will grace the side of Haines’ building by the end of this week.
The mural project is the work of the community and Ashtabula Arts Center. Dozens of volunteer artists, lured into the parking lot by signs, chalked messages and Arts Center employees, participated in the painting of the mural sections that will be applied to the building from a lift.
Greta McLain, an artist from Minneapolis who specializes in these community art projects, is leading the effort. McLain taught a workshop on Sept. 9, 2017, at the Arts Center, says Meeghan Humphrey, executive director. The workshop involved 11 artists who learned how to mobilize a community to produce a piece of art that can transform a nondescript building into art that tells a community’s story and draws tourists.
Eight of the 11 artists who participated in the workshop are from Ashtabula County and will take this training back to their communities, says Humphrey. The other three were from the Cleveland area. All of them are pioneers in the field, as far as Ashtabula County and Ohio go.
“This was the first time that anybody in Ohio has offered this kind of training in Ohio,” Humphrey says.
The Arts Center received funding from the Ohio Arts Council, Ashtabula Downtown Development Association (ADDA) and Ashtabula Foundation to bring McLain to Ashtabula County and work on the downtown Ashtabula project. Humphrey says the work has been ongoing for more than a year and involved Skype meetings with McLain to determine the content of the downtown mural.
“In that meeting she asked us ‘What is Ashtabula all about,'” Humphrey says, recalling the process of designing the mural’s content.
Once a design was selected, it was broken down into smaller canvases that could be filled in by community artists who stopped by the parking lot Sunday afternoon and took up their brushes. Artists from the very young to seniors dabbled, stroked and swept their brushes against the fabric.
Humphrey says that these panels will be affixed to the side of the building later this week, in wallpaper fashion. A bucket lift, provided by Capp Steeler Erectors, will give McLain and her helpers a platform from which to work on the big transformation. Humphrey says the Art Center will be responsible for maintaining the work, which should have a lifespan of 20 years or more. The fabric will be coated and sealed to protect it against the elements.
While the Arts Center was involved in this project, Humphrey says that the local artists who were trained in the techniques can go out on their own and work with other communities to create public art that will revitalize depressed spaces. After School Discovery has already picked up that mantle and will be creating a mural project, as well.
Haines says she is happy to offer her building as the first to receive a mural in downtown Ashtabula.
“I’m big on bringing the community together and I’m big on Ashtabula, our community,” Haines says.
To be continued …