Leaders at the Second Ward Community Center, 54 Ross St., aren't holding back in their enthusiasm for a new mural on the center's outer wall.

"We're absolutely ecstatic," said Harry Hart, a center founder and board member.

The mural is part of "Art for Everybody: The Delaware Mural Project," supported by the Ohio Arts Council, Delaware County commissioners, the Delaware City Promotions Grant, the Ohio Wesleyan University Ross Art Museum and private donors, said Ross Art Museum director Erin Fletcher.

California-based artist Brett Cook created the mural -- and two others at the Andrews House, 39 W. Winter St. -- following workshops held last spring.

The goal, Cook said during informational meetings last winter, was to create murals that depict community.

The workshops were open to the public, he said, to allow "everyone to share their definitions and using that ... to guide what we're going to make."

The result, Hart said, indeed captured community in a compelling way. The Second Ward mural, he said, depicts "everything we stand for in terms of community and bringing the community together."

The murals depict local residents and quotes about community from workshop participants -- a theme Cook said he has employed in other community-based projects in cities from California to New York.

A number of participants at the Delaware workshops signed releases, allowing their images to appear in the murals.

Melissa Harris and her daughter, Ava Johnson, are depicted in the Second Ward Community Center's mural.

"Ava and I were pleasantly surprised and humbled to be featured in the mural on the community center on Ross Street," Harris said.

Hart said the mural has attracted visitors, becoming "a destination place ... bringing the city there to hopefully see what we do at the center."

The center's annual Unity Festival last month drew its biggest-ever turnout, and Hart said he'd like to think the new mural played a role in the attendance. Andrews House leaders also are keen on the new murals.

"Andrews House is excited to be one of the sites for the Delaware mural project," said executive director Melinda Corroto. "The collaborative process of the artwork and the words that appear on the building very closely align with our mission," she said. "The artwork has inspired conversations about community, with people coming to Andrews House and in the neighborhood. I love that the piece on Andrews House is part of a larger work that encompasses many voices in our community."

Fletcher, who played a leading role in initiating the project, said about 30 people participated in the workshops.

"It is important to note that Cook considers these workshops as part of the artwork," she said. "The murals themselves are just a document of the community building that took place in those workshops. Literally, the scenes you see in the murals are taken from photos of the workshops."

The sessions themselves were an example of community in action, Fletcher said, offering "an opportunity for people who might never have met, even if they had passed one another on the street, to build relationships across difference and greater understanding of each others' life experiences."

She quoted one of the participants, who said, "The fact that we all came together for the same purpose embodied the true meaning of community."

"What I found so valuable about this project," Fletcher said, "is that it celebrates the people who make the community in Delaware what it is today.

"Delaware is vibrant and growing. These murals are meant to reflect a vision for the future, what this community can be at its best."

The original plan to install a mural at the Strand Theatre fell through, Fletcher said, leading to the murals at the Second Ward center and Andrews House, plus a third, as-yet-undisclosed location.

"It is my hope that the third site will be realized in the future," she said.

Fletcher said many of the people depicted in the murals have said they are moved by seeing their own visage as artwork.

"I'm pleased by these reactions because that was our intent," she said. "The goal of this project was always to support art in the community, for the community."

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