When artists paint murals in central Ohio, they typically don't take requests.
But public participation will be integral to three murals planned in "Art for Everybody: The Delaware Mural Project," the topic of four information sessions held Feb. 28 to March 2, organized by Ohio Wesleyan University's Richard M. Ross Art Museum.
At those sessions, California-based artist Brett Cook discussed the creative concept he will use when he returns to Delaware sometime in May to lead a two-day workshop.
Using input from that workshop, Cook will design the murals in the summer, with mural installation expected in the fall.
Ross Art Museum director Erin Fletcher said one mural would be on the west wall of the Strand Theatre building on East Winter Street.
The plan also calls for two other murals at sites yet to be determined in the city's 2nd Ward and east side.
During a March 1 information session at OWU's Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, Cook described his experience with the workshop process at a number of sites around the United States and overseas.
The workshops, he said, provide focus on the community a mural will depict.
"The idea of community is not something that any one of us has a total definition for," he said, "and it's not about me dictating it for you. It's about making a way for everyone to share their definitions and using that ... invariably to guide what we're going to make."
Every time he leads such a workshop, he said, "I learn new things."
Fletcher said the planned murals provide a concept "in conversation with" more-traditional public art, such as the statue of Delaware native and U.S. president Rutherford B. Hayes being planned at the southwest corner of William and Sandusky streets.
"The idea here is it takes time and effort to get people engaged and knowing each other, but the value of taking that time upfront actually makes the objects that are produced more impactful to everybody long term. Because then you have a group of people that say, 'That's not just the artist that made that. I (and others) helped make that.' ... That process of working together actually makes these more deeply embedded in the community than they would be otherwise," she said.
"We celebrate heritage and history already in Delaware. What I want Delaware to start celebrating now is its culture today, and this is one step in that direction," Fletcher said.
Cook will develop the mural images from workshop input, but most of the painting won't occur in Delaware.
Instead, he will use a process to paint a mural that can be transferred to a Delaware wall.
"It's really almost like putting wallpaper on the wall," he said.
The process involves painting on a translucent fiber sheet prepared like a traditional canvas, with the end result "almost like a skin of acrylic paint," he said.
"After it's mounted, I'll paint around the outside so it actually looks like it's painted on the wall. (The finished mural will be) so thin that when you walk up and look at it, you can see the mortar and the bricks" beneath the paint, he added.
When covered by a UV-resistant coating, the mural becomes extremely durable, he said.
The Delaware project is supported by the Ohio Arts Council, Delaware County commissioners, the Delaware City Promotions Grant, the Ross Art Museum and private donors, Fletcher said.
Cook's work can be found in private and public collections, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the Walker Art Center and Harvard University.
His public community-based projects have been installed at locations including San Francisco; Oakland, California; Durham, North Carolina; Amherst, Massachusetts; Washington, D.C.; and New York City.
He also developed murals in Nigeria as part of the U.S. State Department's smARTpower initiative, which sent 15 U.S. artists to countries around the world to engage in people-to-people diplomacy.
His website is brett-cook.com.
For more on the Ross Art Museum, visit owu.edu/ross or its Facebook page.