Work underway on mural at eastern gateway to downtown

July 20th, 2017

By Kevin Kilbane | The News-Sentinel

They've gone through 36 gallons of paint in a few days and they still have a lot more to do, but work is well underway on the huge mural that will be part of artistic improvements at the eastern gateway to downtown.

Husband-and-wife artists Jerrod and Kara Tobias of Tobias Studios in Fort Wayne started work a week ago by power washing the concrete retaining wall along the north side of the elevated railroad tracks separating Lake and Columbia avenues from Clay and Main streets at the east side of downtown.

The mural, which will be 300 feet long and 20 feet tall, is the largest art project Jerrod Tobias has ever attempted, and he believes it will be the largest mural in northeast Indiana when it is completed in about three months.

"I pretty much just go to the paint store every day," he joked.

The mural, which will cost about $60,000, is part of a $200,000 makeover project that also includes spending about $150,000 to have another contractor repaint the railroad overpass and add images of dancers and decorative lighting, The News-Sentinel reported last August. The goal is to create a visual connection with the arts campus on the east side of downtown, which includes the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Arts United Center, Auer Center for Arts and Culture, and other locations.

Most of the money for the project will come from $1.25 million in city Legacy funds previously set aside for improving major "gateways" into the city, the previous story said.

Jerrod Tobias has tackled some large murals previously, including the one on the south side of the Brass Rail bar, 1121 Broadway, and on the south side of the building in the 3500 block of North Anthony Boulevard that is home to Studio Seva yoga studio, the Health Food Shoppe and Firefly Coffeehouse.

Tobias said they are taking their time and doing everything properly on the current mural — including cleaning the wall, applying primer paint and then painting the art design — so the mural should last for about 20 years.

The initial work has gone quickly because he has been able to use a paint sprayer to cover large areas while Kara follows with a brush or roller to clean up his lines, he said. They now are about ready to start the more detailed work, so progress will be much slower.

The mural, which the Tobiases have titled "Metaform," will feature brightly colored, geometric, abstract patterns based on natural forms, Jerrod said. LED lights installed under an overhang along part of the wall will illuminate that portion of the mural at night.

He started planning the piece three years ago and has spent this past winter repeatedly drawing it and painting small versions of it to work out the design and details.

However, they now aren't working from any plan. "It's in my brain," he said.

On a project of this size, he said, they have to get on site and get a feel for the wall and environment, tweaking the design as they go.

They plan to take daily photos of their progress, so you can follow it by going to Tobias Studios on Facebook and Instagram.

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