There is this open area in Downtown Mantua where the old hardware store burned down years ago, it is referred to by locals as “The Hole”. As I was passing “The Hole” a few weeks ago, Brock Benner was surveying the progress of a project. We struck up a conversation about it, he shared that they are turning it into a new green space in order to encourage more community gatherings and support the local businesses.
I observed the construction zone starting at the Small Town Nutrition side then panning across the uneven dirt to the K&K Meat shop wall. I was trying to imagine his vision, then as soon as my eyes hit the K&K Meat shop wall I said, “that would be a great wall for a mural! Don’t you agree?” Brock chuckled and replied, “That’s what my mom always says.”
That afternoon, Fivefivephotos contacted Edie Benner, Brock’s mom and the President of the Downtown Mantua Revitalization Committee. We shared with Edie that we agree the wall needs a mural and already have ideas for a design. She gave us the green light to send her a sketch.
This is when the design process really started. Taking the creative lead on the project, I knew I wanted a silhouette and a message. But of what?
To answer these questions I first started researching the history of Mantua, Ohio and found a few very interesting facts:
Mantua, Ohio is a trail town located right on the Cuyahoga River.
Mantua, Ohio was the first town settled in Portage County.
Portage County was named such because of a well known Indian portaging path connecting the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas Rivers.
Mantua, Ohio recently became a trail town.
Next, I reached out to the community via Facebook groups, “Mantua Over the Decades” and “Mantua, Ohio-Remember when…..?”. I asked the question, “What is your favorite thing about Mantua, Ohio?” One after another, 32 comments rolled in saying things like this:
“Family!!! Plain and simple, we take care of each other here. It doesn’t matter if you’re actually related or not, Mantua is a town that comes together for everyone. We support each other and look out for each other.” – Janet Workman Davis
“You really could not ask for a better community!!” – Joe Kotkowski
The history and community in Mantua areas important! I knew these aspects needed to be an integral part of the design.
Starting the design process I took a photo of the building, opened that photo in Adobe Sketch and started tracing the building. Next I painted an ombre yellow, which was later changed to a yellow, orange and red sunset ombre. Then I added a subtle black hill sloping down to the river. Now I wanted to tie in the family and community values.
There’s a photo I took in our soybean field years ago that I knew would be perfect because it is of a family walking hand-in-hand together following the father’s lead. After importing this photo into another layer in Adobe sketch, I traced over the family creating a silhouette of their walk. I also had the idea of adding a silhouette of a train, biker, hiker, and portager in order to connect the mural to the history of Mantua. But the potager is the only one that made the cut. It is so important to keep a mural like this looking simple and clean and adding another element made it feel too crowded. Finally, I exported the preliminary sketch and added a bold white circle graphic with a simple message, “Welcome to Mantua”.
The sketch was finished and sent to Edie for approval. She LOVED it! Now the project is moving towards getting approval from the Town. While everything is starting to reopen after the Coronavirus Quarantine, it will be the perfect time to wrap up a project like this. We hope to start painting in about two weeks. Maybe when it’s done we will be able to enjoy a socially distanced community gathering. I am truly honored to be a part of this mural project and am excited to work with Amanda Wascovich, an experienced mural painter. Hopefully many more murals and artistic projects in Mantua Ohio will come out of this!
Left to right, Edie Benner (President of DMRC and owner of Advanced Rehabilitation & Health Specialists) , Amanda Wascovich (Online shop and Portfolio), and Holly Michelson (Founder and Creative at Five Five)