Residents play part in public artSeptember 22, 2016
By LEANN BURKE
JASPER — Residents of Jasper got the opportunity to leave their mark on the city in paint Wednesday evening.
The Jasper Community Arts Commission sponsored a community mural on the south wall of Brew, 408 Main St. Nevada-based artist Jesa Simon is doing the bulk of the mural, titled “The Secret Garden,” but the shorter portion of the wall features creations from Jasper residents’ imaginations.
“We wanted people to feel pride in it and have ownership of it,” said Corina Mack, programming director for the arts commission. “And to have an artistic outlet.”
Roughly 40 people came out to put brush to wall. A few adults, including Jasper Mayor Terry Seitz, contributed, but most of the artists were children.
Leo Rasche of Jasper, 11, painted two boldly colored flowers on the wall because he’s “just good at drawing flowers.” He learned to like art from his father, Eddie. Leo likes the idea of his flowers being part of Jasper for years to come.
“It’s like a signature because it’s going to be here for a long time,” he said.
The idea of a community mural came after a couple arts commission members visited Philadelphia, Mack said. Philadelphia has a vibrant community mural scene, and the board members thought that would be a cool idea for Jasper. A mural committee formed three years ago, and that process led to “The Secret Garden” began.
The arts commission posted a call for artists online and ultimately chose Simon.
Simon’s idea for the mural came from a quote she read that said, “What if I fall? But my darling what if you fly?” From there, Simon said she started thinking about birds, which eventually lead to the idea of a little girl opening a zipper to reveal a beautiful garden. Simon said many of her ideas come from quotes she finds while reading.
“I tend to fall in love with a quote,” she said.
Simon got into art during school at Columbia College in Chicago as a way to relieve stress. At the time, she had no idea art would become her career. Now she’s built a nonprofit background, teaching art in hospices through the National Charity League. She’s also worked with several city arts commissions on community murals: Iowa City, Iowa; Tempe, Tucson and Phoenix, Ariz.; and Salem, Mass. She thought the Jasper mural would be a good fit for her because of the community aspect.
“I love seeing all the people come out to paint, especially the kids,” Simon said.
Tayshon Brown of Jasper, 11, also enjoys community art. He attended the Chalk Walk this spring in Jasper and loved it, so he figured adding his mark to the mural would be fun, too.
Brown painted a large flower to match the theme. He said having something he painted out where people can see it makes him feel good.
“It’s really cool to have it where people can see what I did,” he said. “It makes me feel cool.”
The mural, which faces Fourth Street at the corner of Fourth and Main, is scheduled to be completed by Saturday.
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