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The Ball State Daily

Spreading love, one brush stroke at a time

Muncie has become a canvas for striking stylistic murals on building exteriors across town. Their vibrant colors and inspiring images uplift neighborhoods and encourage residents to slow down and admire their surroundings. Some murals invite meaningful conversations about Muncie’s heritage and history.

A tour of murals on the south side of Muncie illustrates the heart behind the art. Through different styles and mediums, artists share how their work is a way to give a piece of themselves back to the city many of them call home. These artists are using their brushes to make Muncie as beautiful as the people who make it a community.

Coffee and community at Rosebud Coffee House

Mural artist Sydney Johnson painted this piece titled, “Coffee and Community” at Rosebud Coffee House at the corner of Hoyt Avenue and Memorial Drive. Johnson, a motion graphic designer for The Buzz Creative Group, also painted a mural at the Common Market on Eighth Street. The 2021 Ball State graduate painted a utility box titled “Metamorphosis,” on the corner of Tillotson and Bethel avenues. Her largest mural to date is on a wall of the band room at Avon Middle School South, where she first learned to draw.

“My passions include using my skills as a fine artist to contribute positively to communities around me and thoughtful designing media for organizations making a difference,” said Johnson, who also enjoys conveying themes of faith, truth and love through her work.

Southview Elementary Art Teacher Sarah Shaffer designed and painted two murals on Rosebud Coffee House. The mural above reflects the importance of kitchen tables to the shop’s owner, Tiara Hicks, who named the coffee shop in honor of her grandfather, whose nickname was “Rosebud.” He always welcomed people into his home for coffee and to sit at the kitchen table, so Hicks filled the popular coffee spot with kitchen tables. Purple and yellow are her favorite colors, so Shaffer incorporated those into the design.

Shaffer also painted an 8-foot-high mural, “Gather and Grow,” on the adjacent wall as part of a partnership with Ball State University’s School of Journalism and Strategic Communication.

Ball State students wrote grant applications and collaborated with Hicks and Shaffer to finalize the vibrant, interactive mural that blends the campus and Muncie community. Ball State sophomore Seattle Greenwell helped lead the project and paint the mural.

“It was so rewarding and exciting to apply the skills I’ve learned in the classroom — like project management, grant writing and more — to a project in the community. Art is powerful, and this meaningful mural will last for years as a reminder of the partnerships between Ball State and Muncie,” Greenwell said. “I also loved helping to paint the mural at my favorite coffee shop, which is really focused on building community and connection.”

Conner Davis, a Rosebud employee, said the mural has added life to the south side and encouraged people who live across town to explore new businesses and meet new people.

“It's really nice to see my community putting the time and effort into making these places, this side of town, the most beautiful visually for everybody who lives here,” Davis said. “I think it has a positive impact on the community. I've already seen so many people coming by and stopping and taking pictures here.”

That makes Shaffer glad: “I am passionate about community engagement through the arts,” said the Indiana native and Ball State graduate. “Art inspires thought, promotes new ideas and serves to better our community. Art in public spaces sparks conversations that create accessibility to the arts.”

More love on Walnut

Muncie residents helped paint the base coat for the “MORE LOVE” mural on the Future Choices building at 905 S. Walnut St. Then, they watched Chris Silva, an artist from South Bend, Indiana, transform the wall into a bold statement of inclusion. He drew inspiration from the logos of nearby neighborhoods, Thomas Park/Avondale and South Central.

“I loved the idea of dandelions as a tenacious and determined flower, much like the residents in our area,’” Silvasaid. “The last thing I added to the composition was the giant ladybug, which besides being a beautiful insect, is commonly regarded as a symbol of good luck, fertility and rebirth, protection and adaptability.”

The mural was the result of a partnership between Muncie Arts, the 8Twelve Coalition, the South Central Neighborhood Association, and Future Choices. It is the first of Muncie’s American Rescue Plan Public Art Projects, made possible through a grant from the City of Muncie.

A common love for community

Emily Hayes, a volunteer at the Common Market, said the corner store is somewhat of an art gallery with the amount of art and color that covers each wall — inside and out.

“The murals build over time too, so it's been neat to see all of the artwork evolve over time and all the new murals. It definitely makes the drive in and out (of Muncie) much cheerier every time,” she said. “People have just kind of picked up a paintbrush here and there and added a little bit of love, one stroke at a time.”

The mural depicted above was done by local artist Leon Crosby, who won the 2023 “Artist in the Community” Mayor’s Arts Award. Crosby owns Crosbyfamilyart and serves as education coordinator for Cornerstone Center for the Arts, where he has taught many drawing and painting classes since 2014.

In addition to this mural, Crosby created a graffiti mural with students at McCullough Park.

Mike Martin, owner of the Common Market, described the inspiration behind the art gallery that the market has become: “Just traveling around a lot, playing in different cities, playing music — you see what a difference it makes to see the art out and about and how it brings a city to life and gives it character.”

“The whole idea of this place (the Common Market) kind of comes from different places that we've (the band) played. These are just ideas like ‘oh, we really need to do this in Muncie.’ And so, art and murals are one of them,” said Martin, who painted the mural of music notes on fire.

This piece by Sydney Johnson titled “Common Unity” is one of the many meaningful pieces on the market, which strives to “democratize access to abundance,” according to owner Mike Martin. The market sells food, coffee, low-cost groceries, vinyl, crafts and more. The market often has free items available, and many clubs, neighbors and organizations meet in the cozy space.

“The murals add a lot of color and character and stuff like that to different areas in town. It gives something for people to talk about,” says Matt Weyand, owner of Matt Weyand Repairs and Renovations LLC. Muralist and airbrush artist Eric Ward, whose pieces are depicted above and below, is responsible for multiple murals across Muncie with even more in the works.

Restoring fun

Matt Weyand Repairs and Renovations, located on Eighth Street, has been repairing and remodeling homes since 2005, while owner Matt Weyand was an entrepreneurship student at Ball State University. He said the small business is “rooted in community.”

He reached out to Muncie native Eric Ward, who has been painting murals and other art for more than 40 years. Weyand said he and his team wanted to add color to the building, and they plan to keep adding to the whimsical, 3D piece.

“One of our core values here is a sense of humor, so I wanted to do something that was fun. We're going to be adding to it and doing other things. But it's just something I
wanted to do on the corner to draw attention to the company name,” Weyand

A look back

Muncie native Eric Ward created this romantic mural on the side of Tom Cherry Muffler on Eighth Street. The wall art depicts the old Tom Cherry building, back when Tom Cherry raced roadsters and provided engines and speed equipment to racers across the Midwest.

“I'm bringing back people's memories,” Ward said. “And that's what all these artists have actually added to this town, that's what they're doing. They're bringing the town back to life again. And bringing memories back.”

Employee Jack Daly at Rosebud Coffee House says, “I've grown up in Muncie, so seeing it upgraded with public art – I love it. And it's a good way for the artist to get some recognition, and they (the murals) just bring people together.”

Painting future hopes and dreams

Indiana native Nicole Ponsler created the breathtaking mural near the corner of Memorial and Hoyt avenues. The piece, titled “Five Dots” was commissioned by the Muncie Arts and Culture Council. Ponsler said she reviewed reflections from a series of community story-telling workshops, during which locals narrated their experiences growing up in the neighborhood.

“I pored through the recollections, pulling out stories that struck me as having visual appeal. One story that stood out was about a participant’s great-great grandparents. Folks in the neighborhood, who had fallen on hard times, would be given five dots on their hand and sent to the storyteller’s great-great-grandparent’s house, who would feed, clothe, help folks find work and get neighborhood members back on their feet,” Ponsler shared in an Instagram post. “This kind of spirit of community-helping-community and being reliant upon one another was consistent throughout the stories. The five rings in the composition represent the neighborhood’s five dots history, while the natural elements speak to the hopes and dreams for its future. Lots of folks mentioned wanting more verdant spaces, more gardens, access to real food and less post-industrial spaces. These dreams are represented by the native flora and fauna imagery.”

The murals and art installations across Muncie are so much more than paint covering empty brick walls, said Jena Ashby, executive director of the 8twelve Coalition, a team of more than 25 nonprofits and community organizations working together to improve the quality of life in the South Central and Thomas Park/Avondale neighborhoods.

“The art reflects the sense of community already felt by the people of Muncie and the love they feel for their city. People of all walks of life have expressed immense joy for the work that has been done in making their home a more beautiful and unified place to live,” she added. “Art is often very subjective and open to different interpretations by all who view it, but one thing is clear: these murals are creating positive change within the city of Muncie, and the community couldn’t be happier to see it.”

Inform Muncie articles are written by students in the School of Journalism and Strategic Communication in a classroom environment with a faculty adviser.

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