Connecting with people of all ages and backgrounds is the theme of an 80-foot-long mural, developed with the help of Gahanna residents and recently painted on the side of Tencza Eye Associates, 78 Mill St., in Olde Gahanna.

The public artwork is made possible thanks to a partnership among the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County, the city of Gahanna, the Gahanna Area Arts Council and ALTernative, a professional artist group.

Mackenzie Betts, ADAMH spokeswoman, said ADAMH has assisted with mural projects like Gahanna's for the past five years in various communities as part of a conversation about health and wellness.

Volunteers helped paint the mural Sept. 14 and 15, on what was called "Gahanna Mural on Mill Community Paint Days."

A reveal celebration is expected to be held in October, Betts said.

Using a paint-by-number system, volunteers collectively created the visual legacy that represents the Gahanna community, according to Betts.

"Our art consultant, Eliza Ho from ALTernative, gets community feedback from all different areas of the community and comes up with a design that's reflective of those conversations," she said. "The design you'll see is from the feedback we received in the community."

Betts said the artwork aims to spark conversations on mental health and personal well-being through the community paint days.

The mural features a child speaking to an older person through an old-fashioned tin-can-and-string walkie-talkie.

"It's one thing to see the design on paper, but it really comes to life at full scale on the wall," said Christian Peck, arts council communications chairman.

"The way the little girl giggles by Mill Street, you can't help but wonder what, or who, is making her laugh. It really pulls you into the alley and invites you to explore."

Betts said one of the most popular responses to a survey question was that Gahanna's residents are friendly and welcoming.

"Community members feel connected with each other through schools, community events and the many parks that dot the city," noted the description of the mural that Betts provided.

The description states the design portrays the variety of activities and favorite things community members enjoy.

"The overarching theme is about communication and connectivity, one that community members cite as a contributor to their shared sense of belonging to Gahanna," the description states. "The make-believe means of communication is a whimsical throwback, one that speaks to us even more in this digital age. Using bright colors and illustration style, the mural highlights the child-like no-pretense quality."

Betts said she appreciates Dr. Peter Tencza for volunteering the side of his building for the mural.

"Thanks to Dr. Tencza for his partnership and being such an integral part of downtown Gahanna," Betts said. "He appreciates the arts."

Ali Reeg, a Gahanna Lincoln High School sophomore, said she got involved after her mother suggested she volunteer to help paint the mural.

"I thought it would be fun," she said.

Peck said the council thanks those who were involved in the planning and painting of the mural, including Betts and the Franklin County Board of ADAMH for bringing the program to Gahanna, ALTernative and their artists for leading the community conversation, Margaret Scott and Becky Tencza for leading the volunteer planning committee, community artists for bringing the mural to life, and Dr. Tenzca for not only donating space, but also being a vocal supporter of the project.

"People of all ages, backgrounds and neighborhoods came to paint," Peck said. "Connecting our community is at the center of the arts council's mission, and we're so proud that the diversity of everyone who helped plan and paint is reflected in the mural itself."

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla