Mural artist Tim Parsley (R) and mentee Christina Hoover pose for a picture Thursday evening in front of the southside wall of the Dennie building where Parsley is painting a mural. Not pictured is mentee Sloan Araujo. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Mural artist Tim Parsley (R) and mentee Christina Hoover pose for a picture Thursday evening in front of the southside wall of the Dennie building where Parsley is painting a mural. Not pictured is mentee Sloan Araujo. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
A “first-time arts festival” in Northeast Indiana has drawn the attention of Forbes magazine, and Kosciusko County is a part of it.

“Make It Your Own Mural Fest” consists of 11 artists painting outdoor murals in 11 northeast Indiana counties over 11 days. It started Tuesday and runs through Sept. 18.

The mural in Kosciusko County is on the south side wall of the Dennie building along South Buffalo Street. It is being painted by artist Tim Parsley with help from two mentees. Thursday afternoon, the community was invited to a meet-and-greet event with Parsley at the mural location.

During a 15-minute presentation at the meet-and-greet, Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Communications Kate Virag said, “This is a passion project for me and my team.”

After a number of thank yous, Virag said the mural project started out as an idea to try to bring a national spotlight to Northeast Indiana.

“We are a creative and innovative community and we wanted to highlight that, so we wanted to highlight our amazing regional artists. And also bring in incredible national and international talent, and we’ve really done that through this project, and we’re showcasing Northeast Indiana to those national artists and also getting national attention, so Forbes is recognizing the things we’re doing,” Virag said.

For the Forbes magazine article, visit www.forbes.com/sites/micheleherrmann/2020/09/10/make-it-your-own-mural-fest/#747f21a81e4b.

She said she was “so pleased” that Northeast Indiana can tell its story.

In an interview with Parsley before the presentation, he said he started working full-time as an artist in 2005.

“I made a career change at that point, I went back to school, with my family in tow and we rebooted everything,” Parsley, of Fort Wayne, said. “I’ve been working mostly in painting and drawing, as well as some collage work. My work usually deals with American history and kind of reinterpreting American history. But out of that studio practice that I have, I’ve moved to teaching at the university level. I also have let that same skill set in the studio translate to public art.”

Parsley is a professor at University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.

He estimated that the Kosciusko mural might be around his 25th.

“I did 11 or 12 in Cincinnati, which is kind of where I got started. I’ve done a couple of small ones for a school in New York. I did one in Nairobi, Kenya. And then in Fort Wayne now I’ve done about five or six, I think. I’ve lost track,” he said.

Parsley said art has the ability to bring people together, and that’s certainly the case with public art.

“I think what it does is, public art helps sort of shake us out of our routines. We go from one place to the next, we don’t think about where we’re going, we’re just in our own autopilot mindset of other things and then we get there and we haven’t thought about what we passed along the way,” he said. “And good public art sort of stops us and makes us really step back and say, ‘What is this? What should I be thinking about?’ Maybe it’s inspiring, maybe it’s challenging or perhaps it’s confusing, but it jolts us out of our routines to stop and think about our world and our community in different ways and creative ways.”

Parsley had to come up with three different ideas for the mural, with an eight-member committee casting a secret vote to pick the final one.

Though he’s only lived in Fort Wayne since 2013, he said he had some familiarity with the Warsaw area from people he knows who live and visit the area.

“But as far as this specific mural, the community put together kind of a profile of this whole county and region and some of the history and some of the things it’s known for. Of course, you can’t turn left or right without hitting a lake somewhere, so that was a pretty clear indicator. The themes that I came up with all included some aspect or reference either the historical or natural or recreational aspect of this region and its lakes,” Parsley said, noting that the public will get to see for sure in a couple days when the mural begins to take shape.

While the final mural was kind of being kept a secret at Thursday’s event, Parsley said, “Well, it’s just more about the enjoyment of watching it unfold each day. And so, like I said, it will be recognizable what will be in the mural probably within a couple of days. Next will be a very thin outline of the whole thing, and that probably, for some, will be able to see what it is. And then we’ll start putting in colors and shapes, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s what it is.’”

He hopes the mural will be completed by Sept. 18, weather permitting.

Working with Parsley are mentees Christina Hoover, 35, of Warsaw, and Sloan Araujo, a Fort Wayne student. Parsley said they are helping him do everything from scraping the brick to priming the wall.

“They’re both artists who are interested in learning mural painting and public art,” he said.

Hoover, described herself as “just a local artist.” She applied to help out with the murals and was chosen.

Asked why she applied, Hoover said, “Just to learn mostly because I was actually only given a fifth-grade education because of severe abuse in my childhood. So I don’t have the opportunity like a lot of other people that go to college and take art classes, so when I found out about this opportunity, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this would be an awesome opportunity for me.’ So I get to learn under the professor and learn a lot of stuff.”

In her own art, Hoover said she likes sunsets, bright colors and even a sea turtle or two. Her Facebook page can be found at @cmhartist and her email is artbycmh@gmail.com.

Thursday, she said she learned how to prep a wall for a mural, “which was not fun.” But she was looking forward to the whole learning experience.

Jill Boggs, chief executive officer of the Kosciusko County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Bureau, said public art is important “for place improvement, for betterment of a destination for visitors of all kinds. But more importantly, the initiative was formed to make place better to draw talent, which then talent draws businesses. So it freshens aesthetically the way our community looks and the Visitors Bureau is the lead organization for the local effort.”

She said they formed a steering committee and are working for Kosciusko County as one of the 11 counties through the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s project. The Regional Partnership is leading the overall project and organized the 11 counties, “and the process has been flawless.”

Boggs said an artist out of Fort Wayne, Alexandra Hall, is organizing the 11 counties’ artists and mentees.

Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer said the mural “punctuates our dedication to public art. We put a sculpture up just recently. We’ve got another one going in this fall. We’ve got fresh artistic displays at City Hall.”

He said with the Warsaw Public Arts Commission and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership getting involved “in this pretty cool project in 11 counties, it’s really going to highlight public art in our community and we’ve got a great start. So this will draw more attention to the importance of public art, creates a more walkable downtown when you’ve got something to look at, and art is a big part of quality of place in a community and we’ve had a great start.”