Officially kicking off in September, Findlay’s art scene got a little brighter with the installation of eight new murals across town and more on the way. Though there may have been existing murals for years that were all originally privately funded and painted, this time the art was created with the hopes of public interaction.
This program was a collaboration with Visit Findlay and Awakening Minds Art (AMA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing therapeutic and educational visual art programs to all ages and abilities. This program was sponsored by the Marianna Hofer Endowment Fund that the Findlay Art League and Marathon Art Center provide. The purpose of this endowment fund is to provide Hancock County artists, the arts community, and arts educators the funds to pursue their crafts and vision of creating and teaching the arts while transforming themselves and their community.
“Art, especially public art, unites us and gives people an opportunity to talk, question, and think,” says Emily Sullivan, an instructor and Development Director at AMA.
The Artists and Impact
In early summer, local artists were invited to submit mural designs to Awakening Minds Art for them to review, as well as any interested building owners were encouraged to submit their locations. After everything had been collected, AMA focused on pairing artists with locations based on not only quality of work but the preferences that building owners had conveyed. The main factor taken into consideration was the interactive element of the designs.
“Something about Findlay is that they really embrace the arts, whether that is performing arts or visual arts. It’s been really neat to have the new murals breathe life into the existing murals,” says Danielle Wilkin, the Community Relations and Development Manager at Visit Findlay.
An important part of creating the outreach that is garnering the success of the program is their hashtag, #artmakesmeconnected. People are encouraged to take a selfie, or two with the murals, posing with butterflies, trees, wines, and so much more.
“It’s gained more statewide traction, too… people reach out and say, “We heard about this on a Facebook group, we’d like to learn more,” further explains Wilkin.
Though there is no specific route suggested by either organization, there are plenty of options across town. Located on the side of the public restroom at Miracle Park is a butterfly mural painted by Emily Sullivan that is inclusive for everyone. The butterflies are at different levels, making sure that individuals can take a photo no matter their age, size, or ability.
“It’s for all abilities, it’s for all sizes… It really does encompass AMA’s mission, as well as a lot of these services that participated. They really do practice what they preach,” says Wilkin.
While four of these murals were designed and painted by students, staff, and volunteers of Awakening Minds Art, the other four were done by local artists. Some submitted designs for themselves, but there were those that did so as a representative for a local nonprofit.
One example would be the mural painted by artist Ambz Kear specifically for Focus: Recovery & Wellness and the “I am Somebody” project. This project is aimed to de-stigmatize the conversation on mental health, substance use, and trauma. Kear is one of the five co-founders and Execute Director of the nonprofit Gathering of Expanding Minds, under the umbrella of the Black Heritage Library and Multicultural Center.
“Art connects and weaves all the fibers of this life together–for myself; for us–providing opportunities to welcome, belong, educate, communicate, and reflect what stories and experiences we have for one another with intention and purpose,” Kear says.
Looking Towards 2022
Progress might be paused as cold weather blows in, but the mural program is not finished yet. The final two murals, also done by local artists, are scheduled to be completed by June 2022.
“We hope that the Community Mural Project inspires the creation of more murals and public art around Findlay and Hancock County, and Awakening Minds will happily cheerlead and support those efforts in any way we can, but we don’t plan to have any further direct involvement with mural-facilitating after the completion of these last two murals,” says Sullivan.
All photos courtesy of Awakening Minds Art Studio.