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Mural, Mural on the Wall

Most days you’ll find Tim Parsley, professor Tim Parsley, teaching his art students at the University of St. Francis. But not on this day.

“There is something about large works of public art that kind of imprint themselves I think on our psyche,” says Parsley, “ as we…locate ourselves as we understand place.”

On this day Tim Parsley is putting finishing touches on his latest work of art, an immense mural on the side of a downtown Fort Wayne building. The work recalls some of what was lost in the settling the American West; the near elimination of the buffalo, the loss of prairie habitat. And a flock of carrier pigeons makes an appearance, an animal hunted to extinction in the last century.

“I want there to be that sense in this that ‘yes there’s the romance and there’s the power of that history but there’s also the underside that brings loss and more complicated ideas,” he says.

Parsley grew up in Cincinnati which for years has had a love affair with public murals and Parsley’s expressed his love here for public art before, this is one of his works gilding downtown Fort Wayne, an homage to American poet Walt Whitman and the beauty that flowed from his head into his poetry. Public art is appearing all over this city, this mural on East Columbia street is new, geometric designs that, viewed as a whole, look like a flower strewn hillside. And this tribute to native Americans and their symbolism just off Broadway. They’re all part of our city’s desire to decorate itself that includes the familiar painted mastodons, delightful public bike racks, even temporary artwork like our annual chalk walk and all of it changing us in subtle ways.

“The very things you might go into a museum to experience hopefully public art is able to bring that out of the museum into our normal routine and causes us to pause,” says Parsley. “Think differently. Ask questions become curious be inspired.”

Experts say a city that invests in public art values not just itself but also the communal effort it takes to nurture civilization and creativity both of which are keys to growth, prosperity and a sense of well being.

“The community even though they’re not up there with their brushes in some way it feels like they start to really own the thing that this is,” says Parsley. “This is theirs and they take pride in it.”

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