Editor's note: Kent Patch columnist Elaine Hullihen is the artist creating the new Haymaker Farmers Market mural. In this column she takes us behind the scenes of the project.
With any large project like the Haymaker Farmers Market mural there is a period of time between the sprout of a plan and when that plan starts to materialize.
During this time period there are a lot of “is this thing going to work?” type thoughts. At least it's been like that for me with this project.
Inspiration takes shape
It wasn't until last Saturday at the market, when I saw the colorful tents above the vender's tables and heard the hum of people buzzing around during the height of the season, that I got my first glimpse of the idea I had seen so long ago behind my eyelids emerge.
We recently started to lay in color on the set of pillars near Franklin Avenue. The pillars that we are painting under S. R. 59, if you aren't familiar with the space, act as bookends that frame the hustle and bustle that goes on every Saturday at the Haymaker Farmers' Market from 9am-1pm, May through October. With color now popping off of both sets of pillars, suddenly the space is beginning to feel like the space I hoped it would be.
I imagined the mural to be an array of color, much like the market on it's most thriving days. I also used a lot of collage and layering techniques in the design. To me, this creates the feeling of a garden where the cherry tomatoes are next to the green beens that can see the sunflowers across the way.
So far we have painted in layers of historical figures, vegetables, baskets, musicians and one smug cat. The way these images interact, even the way that different images are painted, is like the different colors, tastes and smells that come from a garden.
The mural features repeated motifs, but it mostly meanders along a path as the viewer notices something different from every angle, from close-up and from far away. The handmade quality of the piece ties it all together with a feeling of being close to home.
This mural is being built by the people.
All this could not have happened without an immense amount of support from donations, volunteers and Kent Community Timebankers.
From hands that paint to donations of funds, to the city's cooperation to yells of "nice job" from passing drivers, we seem to tackle every obstacle along the way with a lot of generous support. It has been truly humbling.
We have had numerous unexpected bumps along the way, and there are probably more on the horizon. Every time there's been a snag someone has been able to lend a hand. One person gave us a power washer (that we used way longer then I anticipated). One person lent a scaffold. One person loaned some extra money. Another saved old coffee cans for our paint.
Not to mention those who have come out to lend a hand with the physical labor of painting itself. Sure it is an incredible amount of fun, but it's a lot of work, too.
All this help is moving the process right along. I recently looked at a photo of the mural from July 15. I was so surprised how much we have accomplished since then.
The added bonus, both for me and the numerous volunteers, is that we get to meet new people.
While some volunteers can only paint for one hour, last Sunday two people stayed with me for eight! Some are interested in painting large blocks of color and others show off their abilities at precise detail work. All of it is so very valuable.
As I mentioned, the Kent Community Timebank has also been a huge part of the painting process. Here, workers help me in exchange for time credits paid by the market. If you haven't heard of the Timebank, look into it. From my experience it seems like a great way to meet people and have fun while helping someone out.
Thank you, everyone, for working with us to make this happen.
Planning for unexpected, happy accidents
We all learn to expect the unexpected at some point, right?
This project definitely reminds me of that. I expected to paint a mural, and instead I've met a cast of characters.
A few passersby have offered to do 24-hour graffiti watch. It's a pretty hot topic with some. We eventually will put a coating on top of the painting that can be removed in case anyone does try anything silly. Until then, my fingers are crossed.
One morning a man walked by asking for directions. I admit, I was a little too tired to be very attentive — until he told us that he was a hiker walking from Maryland through Kent on his way to Warren, OH.
It wasn't until after he left that it hit me how cool it was that he happened by.
Then there is the small handful of people who growl at me for being in the way of parking.
I have also enjoyed short conversations with the construction workers that walk by throughout the day. Some were part of the parking growl at first, but now we mostly smile, wave and sometimes make brief small talk.
One worker showed me a photo of his house that he painted in Browns colors.
One helped me, along with one of my volunteers, change a flat tire on my Sable. He brought the dang thing home, patched it up and brought it back the next day free of charge.
People with a purpose
Most importantly, I value the Haymaker mural because of the statement it makes for our city. This mural, with all the energy and resources that we've needed to make it happen, shows that the people of Kent strongly support community and good, local food.
It shows that we value the work of our farmer/ food producing neighbors. I am proud and grateful that we are able to support these neighbors not only in their toils, but also in the value of quality products that fuel our local economy and fill our local tummies.
It shows that we value the time we get to spend with each other at the market. We value the musicians that light up our ears every week. We value being a part of this community.
As for spending this summer under the bridge, you haven't lived until you are holding your breath, painting a straight line, letting your whole body move with grace when suddenly you hear the train whistle.
It's really loud under there.