Feature Story

A Colorful, Concrete Connection

March 27, 2018 – by Reilly Wright ’20

Artists Queen Brooks, right, and Shelbi Harris work to paint a mural designed by Brooks on the accessibility ramp outside Ohio Wesleyan’s Ross Art Museum. The mural is intended to help welcome visitors to the museum. (Photo by Reilly Wright ’20)

Columbus Artist Creates a Welcoming Bridge to Ohio Wesleyan’s Ross Art Museum

Ohio Wesleyan University’s Richard M. Ross Art Museum wants to help ramp up the community’s interest in public art.

To catch people’s attention, museum director Erin Fletcher has enlisted award-winning Columbus artist Queen Brooks to paint a mural on the east side of the museum’s accessibility ramp. Brooks, with help from fellow artist Shelbi Harris, began work March 23 to enliven the concrete structure with her signature style of lines, symbols, and vibrant colors.

“Since becoming the director at the museum,” Fletcher said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about how we make people feel welcome in the museum; how do we help people feel excited and eager to come see what’s inside?”

Part of a bigger project, the mural is the final installation in Fletcher’s three-part “Inside/Outside” series, which has put exhibits in nontraditional places to bridge connections between campus and community.

“We spent a lot of time this semester talking to groups on campus and in the community who may not have felt that they’ve been represented by this museum or other museums historically,” Fletcher said. “We really wanted to make sure they had a moment to say what they felt like is important to their communities and what they would like to see at the museum.”

The preceding exhibit in the series, this fall’s “The Shadows We Cast,” had the museum working closely with the city to project historic images on the exterior of the building. The first-of-its-kind OWU exhibit solidified Fletcher’s interest in working with the city to support more public art.

“Having a public art piece on the front of the Ross’ accessibility ramp is really a sort of low-stakes opportunity for the city and the campus to both benefit from a little bit of public art,” Fletcher said of the new mural.

The ramp is easily viewable from the street and is separate from the historic museum, 60 S. Sandusky St., which was once Delaware’s post office.

Work on the mural continues March 30 with Brooks and Harris adding color and vibrancy to the painting. (Photo by Tammy Wallace)

As work commenced on her newest mural, Brooks said her final design is a work in progress. Although she created two potential drawings, she also likes to work intuitively. Her goal is for the final product to be a welcoming presentation of a warmer Ross.

“I know that within the image there is going to be bridges or a bridge,” said Brooks, who earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from The Ohio State University. “That was something that when I talked to people in the community … kept coming out: the connection of bridges.”

During her career, Brooks has earned honors including the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest International Artist Award and the Ohioana Career Award, the highest recognition bestowed on an Ohio artist.

Her mural exhibit is projected to open April 6, but its progress is weather-dependent. Brooks encourages students interested in learning more about her creation to stop by the museum Mondays or Fridays, when she’ll be working outdoors until the artwork is completed.

Fletcher said she hopes students also will come inside the museum when they visit Brooks.

“What we really want is for students to know is that this museum is a resource for them,” Fletcher said. “This is a place where students can hold events, they can hold meetings, they can come for openings; this is as much a part of their campus as any of the academic offerings or the library.”

The formal opening of both Brooks’ interior and exterior exhibits will be 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. April 15.

During the academic year, the Ross Art Museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is handicap-accessible and admission is always free. Call (740) 368-3606 or visit www.owu.edu/ross for more information.