Last February, Erin Fletcher, executive director of Ohio Wesleyan University’s Richard M. Ross Art Museum, discussed with Delaware City Council the idea of bringing public art to the city in the form of murals. San Francisco-based artist Brett Cook, renowned for his work with communities to create public art, was selected to lead the “Art for Everybody: The Delaware Mural Project.”
Last week, Cook was in Delaware to host a series of information sessions aimed at promoting the inclusion of the community into the murals. Cook held sessions at Conger Elementary School, Andrews House, Bishop Cafe, and the Second Ward Community Center.
The sessions centered around Cook’s past projects to strengthen communities through art, including his work as a cultural ambassador to Nigeria as part of the U.S. Department of State’s 2012 smARTpower Initiative, as well as his “Face Up” project in Durham, North Carolina, to bridge the gap between Duke University and the Durham community.
Cook’s projects are focused on the inclusion of the community in the project’s direction, using art as a way to bring people together. During the sessions, Cook asked those attending what community meant to them, generating conversation on the topic from the people he hopes will help breathe the project into reality.
In May, Cook will return for a two-day workshop with the community in which he will seek final input from the community before he designs the murals this summer. Cook said the original plan was for one mural, but he felt the community’s expression shouldn’t be limited to one location.
Locations being considered are the exterior wall of the Main Street Delaware office on Winter Street that faces the PNC Bank building, and undetermined locations on the east side of the city and Delaware’s second ward.
Cook said much of what drew him to the Delaware project was the sense of leadership he felt from Fletcher.
“I didn’t know her, and I had never been to Delaware,” Cook said. “But I had a sense that this was a person who had ethics around inclusivity in their community, and the capacity to really handle it.”
He added it is much easier for an artist or a museum director to continue operating within the more typical boundaries of artists and museums working to keep the art exclusive.
Fletcher said she knew Cook would care for the community and respect everyone he connected with. Speaking of her decision to first reach out to Cook about the project, Fletcher said she began hearing from community members about bringing art into more accessible locations such as downtown.
“It was really a moment that started shifting my thinking,” Fletcher said. “If we really want to touch people, we shouldn’t have to ask people to come to the museum. We should be working with the community to really see where art should be.”
She went on to say that, from an artistic standpoint, having Cook and his impressive portfolio come to Delaware should be a point of pride for the community.
To learn more about Cook, visit his website at www.brett-cook.com. Stay tuned to the OWU Ross Museum Facebook page for more information on when the two-day session will be held in May.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter