By: Emily Rosenberg
In the spring semester, the Oberlin College Green EDGE Fund was excited to announce their decision to fund the Oberlin Community Mural Project, “We Are Oberlin.” The team of artists and organizers have been working over the past few weeks to complete the top sections of the mural to prepare for the Saturday, August 14th community painting event. The day was designed for Oberlin community members to literally leave their mark on the project and be able to join the celebration of the town and what makes it special. The EDGE Fund’s involvement was introduced in the later phase, as Tanya Rosen-Jones, an Oberlin resident and artist, developed and implemented the beginning stages of educational and design workshops that would culminate in the final product. In Phase I, Rosen-Jones organized a three-day workshop for students at Oberlin High School, in which they learned about the opportunities of careers in art while teaching about the mural form.
Additionally, Rosen-Jones facilitated conversations with students to see what they believe makes Oberlin special. From this, common themes such as “Trees, the Environment, Diversity, Tappan Square, Queer Positive, Sports, Music, Historical, [and] Colorful” were identified. After these workshops, the artists took input and design ideas from students to create mural designs to propose to the community. The proposed designs were then collected and displayed in the Oberlin Public Library and across local community Facebook groups. In these online and in-person spaces, Oberlin community members were able to cast their votes for the image that would don the south-facing wall behind the Oberlin College Bookstore in the same space that previously held the mural designed and painted by Ms. Grier-Miller and her daughter Imani.
Dozens of people came to paint on Saturday, many pulled in from the crowded streets of Oberlin’s Second Saturday sidewalk event. Townspeople, students, and visitors of all ages participated and lauded the work and care put into the mural. Carmen Ramirez McFarlin, an Oberlin resident, said that she was amazed by the talent and vision of the artists and their ability to breathe life into the image. She also shared hopes of this project inspiring more public art in the city, as she believes it will bring the community together while garnering pride in Oberlin community members.
The sitting board believes that this art installation aligns with the GEF mission of fostering a sense of community pride as well as strengthening the relationship between the art,
designers, and those in attendance at the community painting day on August 14. Stephan Ciulla, the current OES Liaison, feels strongly that “public art brings a community together and beatifies a given space.” He sees the EDGE Fund’s involvement as a step towards embodying the GEF’s newly updated mission statement that centers on building “a holistically sustainable local community,” that includes development, financial investment, and implementation of projects that protect social equity, lessen Oberlin’s impact on the natural world, and build community resilience. Ciulla champions the board’s excitement and involvement, especially as he believes that “this project is a unique opportunity for the Green EDGE Fund to support, and we are excited to see how this mural will shape the community for years to come.”
Photo Credits: Anokha Venugopal