Erin Fletcher, executive director of Ohio Wesleyan University’s Richard M. Ross Art Museum, is on a mission to transform some of downtown Delaware’s exterior walls into works of art.
“What we would like to explore is working with San Francisco-based artist Brett Cook to do some community-led mural development — public art — in downtown Delaware,” Fletcher said.
Considering the Ross Art Museum, 60 S. Sandusky St., serves as “the gateway between the campus and the community,” Fletcher said she, along with the museum’s board, has a desire “to see more art in downtown Delaware.”
“(The museum) has always been free and open to the public and open to the community, but it is my desire as the new director to make sure that we are also doing things that reach out into the community in addition to requiring people to come into our walls to experience art.”
To incorporate more art into downtown Delaware, Fletcher approached Delaware City Council on Feb. 12 to unveil a project in which Cook would be commissioned to create two to three murals.
The project, which Fletcher said is just in the early stages, would be spearheaded by the Ross Art Museum in collaboration with the city, local community, Main Street Delaware, City of Delaware Historic Preservation Committee, The Arts Castle and the Ohio Arts Council.
She added the museum wants to make sure the proposed project is “something everybody can be on board with.”
As for the proposed locations for the murals, Fletcher said she has had initial talks with the owners of Olivina Taproom and the Strand Theatre, both of whom have interest in hosting a mural. A third location has yet to be determined.
“It’s my understanding that this (project) should not negatively impact our historic buildings in downtown that we’ve worked so hard to maintain,” Fletcher said.
As for what the murals might look like, she added that would be up to those who know Delaware best.
“The community will choose what the mural is,” Fletcher said. “The artist has been selected because he has a track record of working with cities.”
She added Cook’s mode of working is by gathering groups of community members and getting input from them as to what’s important to the city and what should be incorporated into the murals.
Both the mayor and manager of Delaware spoke out in favor of the proposed project presented by Fletcher.
Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said bringing more art to the downtown Delaware has certainly been a long time coming.
“We’ve only been talking about this for about 20 years now, I think, so this is very exciting,” she said.
City Manager R. Thomas Homan echoed the mayor’s comments and added having a partner in OWU is a win-win for everyone involved.
“There’s a real interest on the university’s part — Ross in particular — to do more public projects with the community,” he said. “That’s what we really need, I think, to compliment our comprehensive plan goal, which is to have more public art in the downtown. Having them take the lead in this effort will, I think, enable it to probably happen at some point. I’m excited about it.”
He added there are various spots throughout the downtown area that could benefit from a little artistic facelift.
“We have the Strand building for instance. There is a huge canvas there that’s just empty,” he said. “There’s some art there now, but there is a number of opportunities for this in the downtown.”
While it’s no secret that downtown Delaware has a lot going for it, Homan said the addition of two to three murals will only help to enhance the downtown experience for visitors as well as those residents who call the city home.
“In a lot of the downtowns that are undergoing a renaissance like the city of Delaware, art is a component of what you are seeing on the street and on buildings,” he said. “It adds a certain excitement and energy that we just don’t have right now with some of these buildings that just don’t have anything on them.”
Fletcher added while the project is just in the planning stages, she is hopeful that the work can be completed without having to ask the city for any financial help.
“The Ross would spearhead the fundraising for this,” she said. “In the event that we had a gap at the end, we may come back to the city to ask for support, but the goal is not to put this as a financial burden on the city, only to be a collaboration that is beneficial to the city.”
Contact Joshua Keeran at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @KeeranGazette.