During Main Street Delaware’s First Friday celebration today, attendees will have the chance to look at and pose with a mural about Delaware created by a local artist.
Natalie Smith, a local college student, said she was commissioned by Stephanie VanGundy of The SJV Group of Better Homes & Garden Real Estate, along with the Bolton Insurance Agency, to create a mural depicting Delaware.
VanGundy said she loves the Delaware community and wanted to find a way to give back. With help from another local business owner in Denny Bolton, a downtown partnership is doing just that.
“I’m a Delaware native,” VanGundy said. “I’ve lived here since I was in third grade. I attended (Ohio Wesleyan University), and I’ve had my real estate business since 2011. I’m big into our community and our downtown. I love it.”
VanGundy said she sits on the Delaware Historical Preservation Commission, and she’s loved seeing other cities paint murals on the sides of buildings but understands why historical downtowns like Delaware shy away from it.
“There’s a lot of talk about murals, and I know you’re putting stuff on these beautiful buildings, but I feel like it’s such an awesome thing to see other cities doing,” VanGundy said. “We need to do something that connects our city to art. We were just voted the second best neighborhood, and there’s a reason why: Our community cherishes one another.”
VanGundy added she had a portable mural stand constructed and wanted to highlight Smith’s artistic abilities by having her paint a 7-by-7 canvas.
Smith said she draws most of the time and designed the mural on paper before tracing it to the canvas and painting it.
“It definitely took me a while to come up with all the ideas,” she said. “I started painting Tuesday night, because I’m a typical artist and I procrastinate. It has a lot of different things that display what Delaware is all about. There’s Rutherford B. Hayes, a Winter Street sign, the classic Bun’s symbol, a horse head, and all sorts of Delaware-type things.”
VanGundy said she and Bolton plan to sponsor a different artist and mural every quarter, adding she’s excited to put a spotlight on Smith’s work.
“We hope she gets some acknowledgement for her work and her love for our city,” VanGundy said. “It’s all about her and her talent and what she’s done for our community. She’s put a lot of thought into this. She’s a young artist taking the right steps for her career.”
Smith said she doesn’t live in the city of Delaware but considers it her home, because she’s gone to church in Delaware and has spent a lot of time in the community.
“I’m excited that I get to be the first one … It’s definitely an honor,” Smith said. “I feel super excited, and I feel super blessed. It was nonchalant and I don’t think I really understood what I was getting myself in to, but as I was doing, it I was like, ‘Oh, this is actually a big deal.’”
Smith said she was worried but looking forward to people seeing the mural.
“I’m super nervous but mostly excited,” she said. “I love the way Delaware is embracing everything that Delaware is. I’ve loved watching the community grow. This is just another step in getting Delaware where it’s going to be.”
VanGundy said she’ll be keeping the first mural, but later murals will be sold and the proceeds will go to support local art organizations.
“I broke down into tears when she showed me the piece of art, because it’s like everything we stand for in our town,” VanGundy said. “It’s beautiful. We want to bring something that connects our city with people individually that we can share. That’s exactly why we live here.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.