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Every Picture Tells A Story

The Murosity Project celebrates 160 Everyday Stars

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


A pretty tall order.

That’s what artist and teacher Vicki Junk-Wright thought when she met with Larry Rowland, Executive Director of the Parkview Foundation, and other Parkview officials to discuss ideas about a piece of art to display in the new Parkview Health Center currently under construction off Dupont Road.

The general theme of this piece of art work would be generosity. Furthermore, the plan was to eventually install the piece in the waiting room of the hospital’s emergency department — it needed to soothe, it needed to distract, and it needed to uplift.

There’s nothing particularly unusual about those guidelines. But where the project took a different and more ambitious turn was when it was suggested that it might be interesting if there was some community involvement with the creation of the piece itself.

So, Vicki Junk-Wright, who along with artist Santa Brink is overseeing and coordinating the project, gave it some thought, and recalled a piece she had heard of by a Canadian artist. “The artist had done a mural that looked like a whole, complete piece,” Junk-Wright explains. “But these individual pieces, these individual segments, were done by other artists…”

That idea evolved into what would become the Murosity Project, a piece of art featuring contributions from local high school students, professional artists in the area, and public figures around Fort Wayne, celebrating “Everyday Stars.”

To break it down to its nuts and bolts, the Murosity Project is an 8’ x 20’ mural made up of 160 different panels. The overall image is a country scene of a barn, farm house and fields, with the Fort Wayne skyline in the distance. But the mural is divided up into 160 different panels. Each panel was given to an artist, who adds something to their panel that represents, as Junk-Wright explains, a “giver” in the community, or an Everyday Star.

“The whole concept of an ‘Everyday Star’ is someone who shows generosity outside of their 9-to-5 job,” explains Stephanny Smith, Director of Annual Giving for the Parkview Foundation. “People in our community who go above and beyond what they might be required to do in their professional life.”

Some of the people represented are from the early history of Fort Wayne; others are more contemporary: Taylor Reuille, for example, the young girl who proposed the Boundless Playground, is represented by one of the panels, as is Tracie Martin, co-founder of Erin’s House.

Other notables include Jane Surbeck, Don Wolf, and Ian and Mimi Rolland. But in keeping with the “Everyday Star” theme, there are other people not so well known in the community at large who are also represented among the panels. “There’s a woman who voluntarily to plant the flowers in Foster Park,” says Stephanny Smith. “She just does it because she loves it. You might never know about that woman, but now you will now because she’s one of our Everyday Stars, and the artist is going to tell her story.”

As we said above, the Everyday Star is represented in a particular panel; in other words, these aren’t portraits. “I’m not asking for portraits, I’m not asking for just 160 faces,” says Vicki Junk-Wright. “I’m looking for something that’s like a hook, that’s going to make a viewer say ‘what’s that about? Oh, that represents so-and-so’.” Viewers will be able to read about the Everyday Star, and why the hook represents them, via an interactive kiosk alongside the piece.

“Across the room, it is going to be field and farm house and barn,” Junk-Wright says. “Close up, it’s going to be so rich with images… if you’ve got a kid you could play a game of ‘I spy’ for hours.”

Contributors include area high school students, local professional artists, and even Parkview Staff and local celebrities. Junk-Wright, Santa Brink, and other local artists work with the contributors in a series of workshops. “The artist gets my initial painted square,” says Junk-Wright. “They have to hold that shape and form, you can’t turn it. So, you might have the side of a barn, for example, so whatever you come up with needs to be painted in tones of red.”

The professional artists — a line-up that includes Terry Ratliff, Karen Moriarty, Teri Marquardt, Penny French-Deal, and Paul Demaree, just to name a few — got the most difficult pieces to choose from. “They didn’t go through the same process as the students and the others, where we said ‘let’s get your design and find a piece that fits’,” Junk-Wright explains. “For the pros, it was more like ‘here, you have a porch. Make it work’.”

In fact, one of the reasons Junk-Wright chose the landscape as the overall image is that it was somewhat forgiving. Her students at Canterbury did a smaller version of the project using a bowl of fruit as the overall image. While the test run worked wonderfully, the overall image was too busy and colorful. The countryscape in the Murosity Project is a little more accommodating for the non-artists, like some members of the Parkview staff and local “celebrities” who were asked to contribute. Junk-Wright says working with those people in the various workshops has been one of the most interesting aspects of the entire endeavor. Many of them, Junk-Wright says, have never painted before. “Most of these celebrities are really… they’re just ‘A’ personality types, you know? They walk in, they don’t know why they volunteered, they don’t really want to be there… but they start getting into it. We’re exercising the right side of their brain and they’re digging it!”

“Some of the stuff they’re doing is phenomenal,” Junk-Wright continues. “And we’re not painting it for them. We’re making them go through a grid, and drawing it, and then we’ll take their drawing and project it on the canvas, but it’s their drawing. A few are walking out going ‘I didn’t know I could do this.’ And for me, as an art teacher, that’s great to hear.”

Junk-Wright’s co-director for the project is Santa Brink. “I knew I had to bring Santa on board because she’s so well connected, she knows so many people,” Junk-Wright says. “Santa calls all our artist friends, and she runs with it. I knew I had to have her involved. I’m not at the grass roots. I needed somebody who knew that stuff.”

The mural isn’t completed yet. Workshops are still ongoing, paragraphs need to be written (and approved), and there are a hundred other moving parts that need to be taken into account. Plans are for the Murosity Project to be installed by the end of October. But Junk-Wright and others involved are already excited by what they see as those 160 panels are completed bit by bit, and the entire picture starts to take shape.

And the community spirit of the mural’s creation has already yielded benefits. Stephanny Smith talks about a high school artist now doing volunteer work at Erin’s House and developing an art therapy course with a professional artist in the area. “There are just some neat things going on, because everyone involved is taking another look around them and thinking ‘you know, there are so many people here, we have a lot of givers in our community’,” Junk-Wright says. “You don’t often think that way, but when you start to consider it, it’s pretty remarkable.”

You can read about the Murosity Project and see examples of the work at murosity.com.

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