Barks received approval from the Greenway public arts committee and the board to paint a mural underneath the 20th Street overpass.
She promised bright colors and an inspirational message. The smiles on the faces of local residents on the Greenway prove she and her volunteers did not disappoint.
A blue sky running the length of the overpass meets a green pasture halfway down the wall. Large bright pink, purple and white daisies rise to meet the blue sky. Ladybugs, bees and several friendly birds can be spotted throughout the entire mural. Banners with phrases like “Be Kind Always” offer reminders to patrons of the Greenway.
Barks said she clocked more than 30 hours of work completed on the mural. It took her about three weeks to finish the project.
“It was like training for a marathon,” Barks laughed. “I kept telling [my husband] Jason, ‘This is the ultimate endurance event.’ You are working in all kinds of weather. It was hot and then it was chilly and then it was raining.”
Good company in volunteers and random strangers on the Greenway added to her enjoyment of the project.
“Everyone was real encouraging and they told me ‘Thank you,’” she said. “Some random guy just came by and gave me $5 [while he was] on a bike. He didn’t even stop. He just kind of shoved it in my hand and [shouted], ‘Thank you for doing this,’ as he rode away with his family.”
Another man presented Barks with a miniature porcelain doll in thanks for her work. Most of the walkers, joggers, bicyclists and general Greenway enthusiasts offered their smiles and words of encouragement.
“That is what I love about the Greenway,” Barks reflected. “All socioeconomic brackets participate in the Greenway. You have people who have bikes that cost more than my car and then you have people who may or may not have a consistent place to live … It was fun to talk to those people.”
She estimated roughly 20 volunteers helped out on the project. The highest turnout was for the day the kids worked on the background. About 15 adults and children showed up to give life to the mural’s blue sky and green grass.
Tiny helpers Brooklyn and Sydney Goff both showed up with their parents Duane and Candace Goff to lend a helping hand.
Brooklyn said she enjoyed the painting. She explained although the completed mural is pretty, the painting process was messy.
Brooklyn added, “If I got new shows, I would do it again.”
Candace explained she wanted the girls to join in on the volunteer effort because “[the mural] is an asset to the community, and it will be here forever for everyone to enjoy.”
High school student Chandler Nichols joined the volunteer team near the end of the project. Her mother was riding by on her bicycle when she noticed Barks working on the mural.
She told Barks about her daughter’s artistic skills. Nichols ended up helping to add details to the colored-in flowers.
“This was the first outdoor mural I’d ever worked on,” she said. “It was just nice to be outside and paint. A lot more people are going to be able to see this. It is just amazing. Whenever I pass through here, I see it brings a smile to everyone’s face.”
This is the second mural Nichols has had a hand in painting. The first now hangs in Cormetech, compliments of Cleveland High. She described the opportunity to share her artwork with the world as amazing.
“It is not only a way to express myself, but my artistic style usually tells a story,” Nichols said. “Whenever I paint, I like people to sense an emotion or see a storyline behind it. It is just nice to take part in adding so much joy to the community.”
She said Barks’ mural did a good job of sharing a story and emotion with the Cleveland community.
Barks repeatedly emphasized the project would not have been nearly as successful without the help of Ace Hardware, Habitat ReStore, Carrie Workman Photography and Rhonda Wilkins from Create and Celebrate.
Ace Hardware Manager Randall Slack said the locally owned store donated primer to the project.
“We are part of the community and Ace is locally owned, so they like to get involved with the community,” he said. “It helps our business for one thing, but that is not really the reason we do it. It is because we live here and we want to make Cleveland a better place for everybody.”
He hinted the store might be willing to donate more primer to any additional mural projects on the Greenway.
Wilkins also helped the cause by donating four boxes of paint leftover from previous faux-finish projects. She said the “beautiful” mural is definitely a reflection of Barks’ personality.
“I just think it is great. It brightens up this dark tunnel,” Wilkins said. “I walk on the Greenway a lot, so when I walk through [I see] it just makes everyone smile.”
Tara Brown of the public arts committee said the finished mural lived up to Barks’ proposal. She said she loves the finished product. She also hopes to hear from more people interested in adding art to the Greenway. Those interested in learning more can go to cbcgreenway.com.
“Our goal is to actually have temporary and permanent public art all along the Greenway,” she said. “This would be an example of permanent art that is along the Greenway for the whole community to enjoy.”
Barks also thanked her husband for the hours of support he gave her throughout the three-week project through both working on the project and babysitting their two boys Henry and Alex.
“My wife is incredibly creative and extremely community-minded. I love supporting her,” Jason said. “I have no creative skill whatsoever. Supporting her is my way of supporting the arts.
“She always has these big ideas. She had talked about it for a while, she dreamed it up, painted the prototype and submitted the proposal. She did it all herself. Watching [our] kids and doing some priming is the least I can do.”