Fifteen local artists collaborated on a massive mural project downtown

Last week, fifteen local artists came together to create something vibrant, imaginative, and downright delightful in the hidden spaces of downtown Marietta. The resulting explosion of color and design begins with rolling hills of green that run alongside the alley and then duck under the lower level of the parking garage, where brick walls became blank canvas for creative expression. What was once an unassuming alleyway primarily used for parking is now an epicenter for local, public art.

The day of collaborative mural painting was coordinated by Marietta Main Street’s Public Art Committee and sponsored by Clutch MOV and Just A Jar Design Press. Bobby Rosenstock, Chair of the Public Art Committee and co-owner of Just A Jar, said the idea for the event was sparked from a conversation with the building owner, Greta Guimond.

Beth Nash works on her colorful mural inside the parking structure

“Greta initially reached out to Marietta Main Street about using her building to paint selfie stations,” said Rosenstock. “She had painted two murals on her building and they were getting a ton of use from local photographers. One of the goals of the Public Art Committee is to connect artists from the area and I thought this would be a great opportunity to do just that.”

There’s something magical when a bunch of musicians get together and jam.

Rosenstock likened the collaborative painting process to that of a band’s jam session. “You can make a studio recording where you can have multiple takes and produce the sounds until they are just right. But there’s something magical when a bunch of musicians get together and jam,” he said. “It may not be perfect, but the energy and creative levels are elevated. That’s what I was hoping would come out of this project.”

Featuring artwork by Geoff Schenkel of REsolve Studios and Bobby Rosenstock of Just A Jar Design

Artists from Marietta and Parkersburg gathered on a sunny Saturday morning for a full day of painting, riffing, and fun. Participating artists include Beth Nash, Erin Zerbe, Hailey Bennett, Geoff Schenkel, Mason Beuhring, Kat Hendrickson, Meg Rataiczak, Zeb Dye, Savannah King, Emma Romanowski, Sara Rosenstock, Bobby Rosenstock, Alix Northrup, Sarah Arnold, and Greta Guimond.

“Our Public Art Committee accomplished something truly special with our collaborative mural project – artists came together alongside other artists to create,” said Marietta Main Street Executive Director, Cristie Thomas. “It’s this type of energy that we try and harness and direct into community goodness.”

Designs ranged from quirky cats and abstract expressions to a hyper-realistic eye and typography art, with elements weaving from one artist’s space to the next in a tapestry of artistic style. While most of the murals reached a level of completion by Saturday evening, several artists returned the next day and following weekend to extend their designs and contextualize the blank spaces in between designs.

Meg Rataiczak paints a face on her blue flower

Marietta artist Meg Rataiczak said she enjoyed the face-to-face exchange (socially-distanced, of course) with all of the artists and being able to watch their process.

“It was really grounding and inspiring to work with so many artists at once on such a large scale. Not a single person laid paint the same way.”

Rataiczak, whose artistic style is heavily influenced by tattoo art, was excited to learn that the parts of the mural had a botanical theme. “I love flowers and growth,” she said. She painted a blue flower shedding tears inside of the parking structure.

Greta Guimond adds character and patina to an exterior door

Guimond, who owns Hardly Able, LLC, a family-owned local property development business and Marietta Gretta, Furniture Art & Design, was eager to support the artistic additions to her brick building. In addition to providing the canvas, Guimond and her husband donated towards the cost of paint and supplies and participated in the transformation of the back wall.

While adding a patina to a metal door, Guimond noted that her father would have appreciated the shades of green going up on the wall. “It was his favorite color,” she said. “He would have loved this.”

This event was such a win-win for both the community and local artists.

The rolling green hills and shining sun were designed by local illustrator and graphic designer, Alix Northup. Also a member of the Public Art Committee, Northrup helped Rosenstock prime the walls and prepare for the big day.

“This event was such a win-win for both the community and local artists,” she said. “Public art has the ability to add so much value to our area and to help create community engagement. Not only did the event transform and enliven a public space, but it also helped to support local artists and give them a chance to connect and collaborate.”

Alix Northrup, who designed the mural featuring rolling hills on the exterior wall

Northup said she’s equally as excited to see her design on such a large scale as she is to see how the community interacts with it. “Seeing the finished piece brought up so many positive feelings and emotions, but actually hearing locals say supportive comments as they passed by or on social media has been the real highlight.”

Creating a space for engagement was a major goal for this project. Knowing that her murals on the upper level of the lot were already popular backdrops for local photographers, Guimond wanted to create even more opportunities to stage fun shoots. To encourage locals and visitors alike to interact with the murals and share their photos on social media, they created #mymariettamurals and included it on the design.

The #mymariettamurals tag is handpainted on the lower right corner of the green wall

“Public art is the perfect way to celebrate local; it contributes to the unique character of a place and sends a message that a particular place is loved,” said Thomas. “Our art – among other things – sets Marietta apart from other communities. Our downtown streets are made for people and we want people to walk around downtown feeling safe and welcome.”

You cannot find these murals anywhere else in the world.

Public art has been credited as a cost-effective way to boost economic development and community pride while bringing people together. A 2018 study by Americans Speak Out About the Arts found that 70% of Americans believe that the arts improve the image and identity of a community and 73% of Americans agree that the arts help them understand other cultures better, helping to build relationships between communities.

Work by Emma Romanowski, Savannah King, Kat Hendrickson, Erin Zerbe, and Zeb Dye, from left to right

“You cannot find these murals anywhere else in the world,” said Thomas. “Our artists created something from their hearts just for us, just for Marietta, and we are proud to celebrate their contributions to the vibrancy and creativity in our beautiful city.”

This event was the largest arts event coordinated by the Public Art Committee, a feat for the dedicated volunteer group. “Our Public Art Committee has worked diligently over the years to bring folks together and funnel time and talent into the arts downtown,” said Thomas. “This collaborative mural project is the result of passionate artists who believe in our community and want to share that love with fellow creatives.”

The end result is a massive display of local creativity, now permanently installed in the heart of downtown. “It’s taken time – years – to get to this point where artists put brushes in their hands and put paint on walls but we’re glad to be here now and look forward to celebrating future projects, some already queued up and ready to go.”

Savannah King painting a large, realistic eye

Northrup hopes the event will serve as a jumping off point to open the dialogue between the community, artists, business owners, and the Public Art Committee to assist in continuing to promote and produce art in our area. “It was a perfect way to expose the community to the benefits and impact public art can have in our city,” she said.

I just wanted to have fun, spending a day hanging out with a bunch of my friends making art.

At the end of the day, Rosenstock said the event was just as much about connection as it was creating art. “Really when it comes down to it, I just wanted to have fun, spending a day hanging out with a bunch of my friends making art. I think we succeeded.”

Photography by Michelle Waters