The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, in collaboration with Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne Inc., on Aug. 31 revealed the 11 artists participating in Make It Your Own Mural Fest, taking place Sept. 8-18 across northeast Indiana’s 11 counties.

Amy Buchs of Waterloo was chosen to install a mural in downtown LaGrange. Murals also will be installed in Garrett, Albion and Angola.

Buchs is a retired DeKalb High School art teacher. Since her retirement, she has painted three large murals in downtown Auburn, as well as murals at Seiss Concrete in Auburn, Warm a Heart soup kitchen in Auburn and on a barn in rural Waterloo.

“I really enjoy it when passers-by stop and say a few words or ask a few questions; when that happens my sense of purpose is fulfilled. I am a retired teacher and I am incredibly lucky to be able to apply the skills that I taught for years to create significant public art,” Buchs said in a news release.

Commenting on the experience of installing a mural, Buchs said, “Big is powerful! Every design is labored over on paper until it is good. When that same design is bigger than life, it looks amazing!”

The regional mural festival concept, the first of its kind in the state, is an activation of the Make It Your Own brand intended to enhance the region’s efforts to drive talent attraction, talent retention and tourism by investing in quality of place assets and public art.

Kate Virag, vice president of marketing and strategic communications at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, said Mural Fest was created to achieve several goals.

“We designed Mural Fest with several specific outcomes in mind. First, Mural Fest will amplify northeast Indiana’s quality of place, supporting our region’s talent attraction and retention goals. Additionally, this initiative highlights the unique attributes of our communities, creating opportunities for residents and visitors to engage and experience northeast Indiana through public art, driving social media and media exposure for the region. The initiative also offers mentorship opportunities for emerging regional artists, which should catalyze future public art creation. This important element of the regional branding strategy will make Northeast Indiana nationally known and position it in a positive, forward-thinking light,” Virag said.

Elaine Bedel, secretary and CEO of the Indiana Destination Development Corp., said the state recognizes the strong connection quality-of-life initiatives like Mural Fest can have on economic growth.

“The goal of the IDDC is to tell Indiana’s authentic story to attract and retain business, talent, students and visitors to our great state. That’s why I continue to seek out new ways the state can partner with and lift up the work of our regions and local communities,” Bedel said. “Make It Your Own Mural Fest is an incredible example of how innovation and creativity, even during the historic challenges of COVID-19, can bring countless new opportunities, attention and individuals to a community through investment in quality of place.”

Dan Ross, vice president of community development for Arts United, said public art creates a unique attachment to the community and can be a catalyst for future growth.

“Arts United is passionate about the development of vibrant communities throughout northeast Indiana. Through partnerships like Make It Your Own Mural Fest, we achieve positive outcomes for the region’s economy, workforce, schools, neighborhoods and families,” Ross said. “Even during these challenging times due to COVID-19, it’s important we continue to support artists, explore new ideas and interests, experience diverse cultures and be inspired by our community’s resilience.”

Over 11 days, the 11 artists listed below each will install a high-quality mural — one in each of the 11 counties of northeast Indiana. Here’s information on them and what they said in the news release about public art and installing murals.

• Adams County, 411 E. Line St., Geneva, artist Zach Medler of Noblesville. A Geneva native with ties to Berne, Medler said, “Every wall is different, and every wall has different challenges. But for me, it is about being in the moment just slugging away at it, arms dead, fingers cramped, back screaming, and ready for another 10-hour day tomorrow.”

• Allen County, 201 W. Wayne St., Fort Wayne, artist Key Detail of Minsk, Belarus. The husband-and-wife team of Andrei Krautsou and Julia Yu-Baba said, “Indiana is the place where we always feel welcomed. It is the state where we have done several important projects for us.”

• DeKalb County, Garrett City Hall, 130 S. Randolph St., Garrett, artist Ricco Diamante of Defiance, Ohio. “I hope the painting inspires conversations about how public art is essential for community health and growth.”

• Huntington County, 35 W. Market St., Huntington, artist America Carrillo of Huntington. “Public art also raises the vibration of the community. Color has a profound impact on the brain. It has the potential to turn someone’s entire day around.”

• Kosciusko County, 212 S. Buffalo St., Warsaw, artist Tim Parsley of Fort Wayne. Parsley, whose bison mural can be seen along Fort Wayne’s The Landing, said, “Painting murals transform what I do as a studio artist out into my community, allowing me to listen to others and engage with what makes a certain place special.”

• LaGrange County, 202 N. Detroit St., LaGrange, artist Amy Buchs of Waterloo

• Noble County, 122 N. Orange St., Albion, artist Tobias Studios of Fort Wayne. Jerrod and Kara Tobias have painted many colorful murals on Fort Wayne businesses incorporating sky blue backgrounds. “Public art helps give voice to the culture and community,” they said.

• Steuben County, 900 N. Wayne St., Angola, artist Justin Suarez of Rochester, New York. Suarez said, “Murals change the urban landscape and bring life and color to otherwise dull surfaces, creating beacons and landmarks throughout an area, encouraging people to get out and explore the place they live in new ways.”

• Wabash County, 214 E. Main St., North Manchester, artist Claudio “Remix 1” Rico of Wichita, Kansas. “We strive to create art that will make Northeast Hoosiers feel proud.”

• Wells County, 122 W. Market St., Bluffton, artist David Rice of Portland, Oregon. “I found that working in a smaller city or town, I get a lot more engagement with the community. There seems to be more of an appreciation for the work that is being done and affects the people that live there more directly.”

• Whitley County, 116 W. Van Buren St., Columbia City, artist Shawn Dunwoody of Rochester, New York. Dunwoody’s, whose previous work can be seen in Fort Wayne, said, “Public art is important to a community’s quality of life because it tends to build a sense of place and connectivity.”

Alex Hall, founder of Art This Way and owner of AH Public Spaces Consulting, said that although it was challenging for the selection committees in each county to choose just 11 designs from the talented pool of applicants, the muralists selected represent a diverse and eclectic mix of artistic aesthetic.

“The Make It Your Own Mural Fest artists embraced each county’s story to create a mural that was authentic and genuine,” Hall said. “We are pleased to welcome highly sought-after artists such as internationally renowned muralists Key Detail of Belarus, to multi-disciplinary creatives like Shawn Dunwoody, of Rochester, New York. We also have prolific and experienced regional artists participating, and a few are even installing murals in their own hometowns. We’re thankful these artists are sharing their talent and contributing to Make It Your Own Mural Fest.”

Mural Fest will also feature participation from 12 aspiring artists as part of the mentorship program. The program will provide hands-on learning and valuable experience installing a large-scale mural project. From preparing materials to installation, each mentee will help his or her assigned artist with the mural installation.

Small artist “Meet and Greet Events” are happening throughout the region, and more information can be found on the Mural Fest website. All events require social distancing, masks and other COVID-19 safety best practices.

Make It Your Own Mural Fest is supported through sponsorships or grants from 3Rivers Federal Credit Union, Ruoff Mortgage, Ambassador Enterprises, Flagstar Bank, NIPSCO and the NiSource Foundation, Farmers & Merchants State Bank, Cole Foundation, Fort Wayne Public Art Commission through the City of Fort Wayne, Canterbury School, Avangrid Foundation, MacAllister Rentals, Hagerman Construction, Downtown Improvement District and media sponsor WPTA. Activities are also made possible in part by Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne, Inc. and the Indiana Arts Commission, which receives support from the State of Indiana and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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