Mural Walk

Madeline Phuong, Junior Editor

(1) Theoplis Smith III – I Scream Fort Wayne Mural (222 Pearl Street)

Theoplis Smith III, artist and owner of Phresh Laundry LLC, views everything as “a huge coloring book.” With his Pearl Street mural, he aims to embody the spirit of Fort Wayne, the second largest city in Indiana, through a city slogan like the classic tagline, “I Love New York.”

Smith’s art installation, “I Scream Fort Wayne,” features a bold and energetic illustration of an ice cream cone being offered to a waiting pup. However, in place of the ice cream is the Allen County Courthouse, a classic feature of the Fort Wayne skyline.

In painting the mural, Smith had to ensure that the weather was just right—both for him and for the paints. He hopes to spark creativity in people of all ages who view his final piece.

“My favorite detail is the harmony of colors colliding to make one picture,” Smith said. “It’s a reminder that all kinds of people can come together and make a bigger picture and impact!”

Smith, a self-taught artist, has always possessed an innate sense of creativity. He feels that art is a unifying force able to bridge differences.

“The arts are the glue to this city,” Smith said. “Being Black, I feel it’s important to have representation. I’ve seen a Black artist that looks like me bring a community together. It became my superpower.”

 

(2) Bryan Ballinger – The Blue Birds (927 S. Calhoun Street)

Artist, writer, and photog

rapher Bryan Ballinger saw his Calhoun Street mural as an opportunity to translate his distinctive inking style into a lifesize edition. A self-titled collector of “vintage recipes, absurd non-perishable food items, and music played by animals,” Ballinger has exhibited work internationally.

As his mural’s title “The Blue Birds” denotes, the public artwork is a stylized, monochromatic series of blue birds “silently judging you” among stalks of grass.

In planning for the mural, he took inspiration from a sketch of his done with a Pentel Brush Pen. The most challenging part of the mural process was “preparing the wall for the painting because it’s not very exciting.” Ballinger also said that he had to get used to passersby seeing the mural in its unfinished state. His favorite part of the installation is how different people interact with and uniquely interpret what the blue birds are thinking.

Ballinger is not unfamiliar with the public art process. He has completed over a dozen public art projects across Indiana, from painting larger-than-life murals to a Humane Fort Wayne LoveSeat to even a fire hydrant.

“I LOVE public art! It is so fun to contribute to the community and to interact with people as you are painting,” Ballinger said.

(3) JUURI – Lion’s Dance (128 West Wayne Street)

JUURI based her West Wayne Street mural on the famed lacquerware of Takaoka, the coastal Japanese sister city of Fort Wayne. As a Tokyo-born Japanese American artist, she was particularly inspired by the lacquered masks used in Noh and kabuki theatre, which are classical Japanese art forms of dance-drama. 

Her mural, “Lion’s Dance,” features one such lion mask, inspired by the play “Kagamijishi.” The art installation also portrays the play’s maiden, who performs a ceremonial lion dance “before turning into the lion…hence the white mane-like hair.” Additionally, JUURI translated the reds, greens, and golds directly from the play’s characters and costuming into her final work.

“Kabuki is an unusual subject matter for street art, but an endangered form of theatre in Japan, so I’m happy to be able to focus on it and hint at its beauty for audiences to learn more,” JUURI said.

Having been an artist for her entire life, JUURI first began her journey of mural painting in 2014. She has painted and applied to various murals all over the world, with her biggest hurdle being working in the summer heat. Regardless, she enjoyed contributing to the public art scene in downtown Fort Wayne.

“This has been one of the best experiences I have had working on a mural,” JUURI said.

 

(4) Jeremy Stroup – Blue Diver (2020 Grand Street)

Jeremy Stroup, whose work is based on religion, myths, and symbolism, views his art as a meditative form of insight. His Grand Street mural evokes the wildlife and scenery associated with Fort Wayne’s three rivers.

“I was excited to contribute to Fort Wayne’s downtown public art scene because it seemed like there was a big push for more new art from local artists,” Stroup said.

Stroup’s initial design proposal of “Blue Diver” featured a bird’s eye view of the river scene in the final piece. He decided that a side view of the wading blue heron would make the installation “more immersive and energetic, giving the viewer a different vantage point.” The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo otter exhibit most influenced Stroup in this change. Upon arrival at the mural site, Stroup also discovered that he had to alter the dimensions of his design.

“I had to fill a lot of room with various fish and otters, so some of them have some goofy faces that I feel like are more fun to take a closer look at,” Stroup said.

Having little experience with public art installations, Stroup found the application process to be his biggest challenge, since “it can be very difficult and discouraging.” He added that working from a ladder was a challenge as well.

Despite these obstacles, Stroup said that, by the end of the process, he felt a sense of validation from having a permanent installation in the local area.