Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

New Mural Painted in Oberlin Town Center

Abe Frato
Oberlin Community Mural Project works on new mural in town.

Oberlin welcomed a new mural to town this week as artist Jared Mitchell put the finishing touches on the Oberlin Community Mural Project’s new vintage postcard-inspired wall. The mural sits on the south side of Mill on Main, at the intersection of West Vine and Main Streets. 

This is the second mural from the Oberlin Community Mural Project, after the “We Are Oberlin” mural on the wall behind the bookstore. The group’s organizer, Tanya Rosen-Jones, OC ’97, said the community wanted more public art.

“The first mural we did was in partnership with the City schools,” Rosen-Jones said. “I worked with the high school, brought three mural artists in, did a three-day workshop and got ideas directly from the high school students for what makes Oberlin special. We had a vote for the winning design and a community paint day — it was a real community mural project. It was amazing, but so much work, and people were like, ‘When are you going to do the next one?’”

Having established the Community Mural Project, Rosen-Jones now had a group of people to help make decisions about the content of proposed murals. For the vintage postcard mural, that meant a series of decisions of what iconic elements of Oberlin to highlight in the individual letters of the sign.

“We wanted to have a mixture of things represented for what you would see when you came to Oberlin, or for what Oberlin might be known for,” Rosen-Jones said. “We were limited by what would transfer well to the inside of a letter in the mural and by not wanting to replicate things that were in the mural on the back of the bookstore.”

The letters on the mural contain Oberlin icons, including the historic elm in Tappan Square, the albino squirrel, the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Finney Chapel, and a (fictional) street sign showing the intersection of College Street and Main Street.

Jill Sawyer, owner of event venue Mill on Main, volunteered her building for the new mural with the vintage postcard concept already in mind. Mitchell, who painted the mural, said the design of the lettering is partly inspired by a sign inside.

“They came to me with a little bit of an idea; I started working up a couple of concepts, and then eventually, working with a group of individuals, we started focusing in on some of these subjects within the letters,” Mitchell said. “The letter structure itself is inspired by a sign that they found in this building. … It’s very similar in how the ‘B’ has points on the end; the curvature on the ‘R,’ the ‘L’ — it’s all almost identical to the sign, and from there we kind of went forward with just finding other little details, like colors and such.”

The new vintage postcard mural comes from funding from the Firelands Association for the Visual Arts, sponsored by the City of Oberlin, as well as funds from the Bill Long Foundation. The City has begun working with FAVA to support arts in the community, and the mural is one of the first accomplishments of this new collaboration.

“We partnered with FAVA this year to basically develop a grant program for murals in the downtown business district,” City Communications Manager Diane Ramos said. “This was part of our larger goal to bring more art to the city. FAVA’s been a great partner and we both value the arts and understand the reputation that Oberlin has for being kind of an arts hub, and we just wanted to find different ways to highlight what we have here.”

Mitchell, a local artist whose previous work includes the Amherst Public Library logo, was excited by the positive feedback from community members.

“I love the response from the community; everyone’s been really happy to see it,” Mitchell said. “I guess that’s why I’m doing it, not just for me to enjoy the process, but for others to enjoy it in their way too.”

The new mural looks to be a sign of a bright future for Oberlin’s public arts.

“We’re happy the program is getting off the ground and we have our first mural going,” Ramos said. “I only see this partnership growing, and I think that’s a great thing in such an arts-centric town.”

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