The oldest independent fair in Ohio celebrated its 150th year with a commemorative mural painted by recent Marietta College graduate and full-time artist, Leah Seaman. The mural celebrates many of the fair’s most popular and prominent features, from the Roundhouse building and fair rides to the tractor pull and the many animals showed by the local agricultural community each year, and graces the side of the sheep and goat barn.
“For 150 years now, the Barlow Fair has provided entertainment and connection for the greater Washington County community in this way, and the Fair Board really wanted to celebrate such actions through this project,” said Seaman.
Seaman said local artist Bobby Rosenstock connected her with the fair board. “He asked if I was interested in a last-minute project that needed to be finished by the beginning of the fair.” She accepted, connected with the Fair Board, and got to work.
This week-long project was an incredibly fun learning experience that taught me so much about myself, the mural industry, and working with corrugate metal.
“This week-long project was an incredibly fun learning experience that taught me so much about myself, the mural industry, and working with corrugate metal,” said Seaman. “I had never worked on such a large-scale mural before and I definitely had never worked with corrugated metal before, so I was going in blind from the beginning.”
The mural is a whopping 16’ wide by 13’ tall. Seaman spent much of her time perched on a ladder or scaffolding to reach the upper third of the mural – but her most challenging obstacle, was the weather.
“I unfortunately lost a day and a half of work due to rain, but still worked around weather challenges with the help of a make-shift tent that the fair members helped me construct to protect the piece from the brunt of the rain.”
Seaman also had assistance from her parents, who drove over four hours to help her make up for lost time, painting whatever she asked of them and providing much needed support and encouragement.
Doors have already opened that exceeded my greatest hopes for my artistic career, including this mural opportunity.
“I have come out of this project not only with an invaluable understanding of working on corrugated metal, but also a better idea of my productivity capabilities as an artist, and a better idea of how to work around the unruly whims of Mother Nature!”
As a recently graduated full-time artist, Seaman said any expectations or doubts she may have had entering into the industry have almost been almost entirely washed away by her new reality.
“Over the past four months, I have experienced such a massive outpouring of love, support, and encouragement from friends and strangers alike that I very rarely have moments to question my decision to become a full-time artist,” she said. “Doors have already opened that exceeded my greatest hopes for my artistic career, including this mural opportunity.”
Seaman said she now finds herself in the wonderful position of having to figure out how to stem the flow of opportunity so that she doesn’t work herself to the brink of burnout. “Which is incredibly difficult when I want to say yes to every project people bring to me!” If her first four months are any indication of the future, Seaman is beyond excited to see what the next year has in store for her.
With time and patience, I have the opportunity to watch my creations unfold into something I am truly proud of.
As a muralist, Seaman said the most rewarding part of what she does is getting to surprise herself and those around her. “When I start on a project, large or small, there are always moments where it seems impossible for anything beautiful to come from my efforts,” she said. “The sketches, crooked lines, and dripping paint seem to put into question my competence as a creator. But with time and patience, I have the opportunity to watch my creations unfold into something I am truly proud of, and I always seem to surprise myself and my audience at how successful these works can turn out to be! I enjoy that surprise and that progression.”
As an artist, she values having the honor and opportunity to make art accessible and available to people from all walks of life. “It is one of my life’s goals to ensure that almost everyone can afford to have a masterpiece of some kind in their home, regardless of the image or the medium,” said Seaman. “Art should not just belong to the upper 1% of humanity, but to all of us, so that it might bring more joy to our lives.” Seaman takes great pride in being a conduit for this notion.
To date, much of Seaman’s work is comprised of commissioned projects. But she’s looking forward to finding a balance and having more time to hone her own, personal style. “I tend to lean towards more politically active messaging that touches on subject matter near and dear to my heart,” she said. “I use a more realistic style, with dramatic highlights and shadows and vibrant color combinations. I am still so new to discovering my own style and voice, that I don’t yet know what story I will be telling the world with my craft.”
She hopes to be able to learn more about herself over the next few years and create bodies of work that speak to truths to that which she is most passionate. “I hope to start vital conversations with my work that will encourage people to consider new perspectives, examine their own understandings of the world, and challenge notions they may have grown up believing as gospel truth.”
Right now, Seaman is in Naples, New York working on her next big project – a 30’ x 8’ mural for Fruition Seeds. As this mural will also be painted on a corrugated metal surface, Seaman said she was thankful for the opportunity to practice her technique with the Barlow Fair mural. Those interested in following along with Seaman’s progress can follow her art accounts on Instagram and Facebook, or check out her newly-launched website.