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After a long process, Tobias Studio’s 300’ mural in downtown Fort Wayne nears completion
By Rbecca Stockert
Fort Wayne Reader
Members of Tobias Studios, Jerrod and Kara Tobias, a husband/wife team, are hard at work painting a 300’ long and 20’ high mural on the northeast side of the Columbia Street bridge downtown. Residents of Three Rivers Apartments have a front row seat to the creation of one of Fort Wayne’s largest murals. The Tobias gang began working on July 11 and expect completion the beginning of September.
It took three years to put paintbrush to wall. The original sketch presented for approval has changed over the years, as Jerrod’s creativity has developed. The Tobias’s had to get permissions from the City of Fort Wayne and the railroad, and money came from Legacy funds — a long process of approval and paperwork. The mural itself is the tip of the iceberg. It is one part of a larger initiative to beautify the city, in part by making the gateways to downtown more attractive. The larger goal is to spur economic growth in northeast Indiana with help from the arts.
But the talk of economic development, bureaucracy, and city funding sits in the shadow of something much larger: the real benefit of the mural resides in the hearts and minds of people. The benefit of art cannot be standardized and measured in numbers of dollars or tourists; but rather as an ever-expanding experience that relentlessly begs the question: what does it mean to be human? And this is exactly what Jerrod Tobias wants the mural to do.
“For a long time, since college, I have been interested in art as activism...for social change. And you can use art as a tool to open people’s minds and open people’s perceptions. And that’s the thing: I’m trying to open people’s perception to that we are all connected,” said Jerrod, during an interview.
The mural itself is made of a myriad of different colors from across the spectrum. All are unified by relatively similar hues and by similarity of geometric and organic shapes. Abstract, the work embraces both geometric and organic shapes with strong lines between colors. Waves, circles, diamonds (over 200), parallelograms, and stars collide, explode, and reform across the 300’ canvas: relative to the universe itself.
The mural itself was laid out with a variety of mural-making techniques: projection, stencil, and a homemade compass to create a nearly 10’ circular pattern. They found the 200-odd diamonds on the south end of the mural most daunting. Some of the diamonds needed 4 coats of paint and they spent 4 days filling them in.
Jerrod’s desire to stimulate connections between people is reflected in the visual movement and expansion in the mural. He wants his artwork to speak to the unification of all things, a cosmic sympathy, or ‘sympatheia’: “the feeling that the universe is an indivisible, unified, living organism endlessly in flux.” He wants to facilitate in people the mental and spiritual breakthroughs that come with feeling connected, paradigm shifts. Jerrod acknowledges he has experienced multiples breakthroughs in his life, of which only lead him to a more fulfilling existence and more meaningful artwork.
And with this desire for unification comes an acknowledgment of the isolation created by technology in our contemporary lives. Jerrod says: “Here’s the thing: there’s a difference between connecting with people through a digital interface and connecting with people through your senses. I feel like a cyber connection is a generic experience relative to being able to experience [people] in real life.”
The husband/wife team is a remarkable reflection of the unity in the work they create, which is not lost on the two of them. Jerrod is the creative brain of the operation, while Kara keeps the wheels on and keeps everyone moving forward. A right- and left-brained team. The are a great complement to one another. Kara explains that she began working on the Brass Rail mural last year in order to learn the process in preparation for this project. They laugh together at the word “romantic.” Jerrod says: “You can’t write (****) like this!”
Kara follows Jerrod’s lead when it comes to creative directions: he draws the shapes and she paints them in. This, she has found, is an integral part of their success together. Though he takes the lead creatively, she is the one to keep them on task when Jerrod is ready to take an early nap.
Jerrod is humbled and thankful for the opportunity the community has provided him. And he doesn’t take the responsibility lightly: “The present is the greatest moment I have experienced as a creative person in my life...painting this mural is the greatest thing I’ve done, and it makes me feel good about being a human being.” With the help of Kara, he has arrived at a culminating point: though it won’t end here. He (and we) only expect the good vibes to continue.