Art has always heightened the enjoyment of life, and now, a new, interactive mural project is shaping up in the towns, villages and cities of Niagara County.
By mid-summer, the Niagara County By the Numbers: An interactive Mural Trail will be completed by 12 different artists on twelve different sites throughout the county. These aren’t the only artists that will take part, though, as nearby businesses and organizations will hold colored chalk for tourists and locals to use to color in the shapes outlined by the twelve artists like an old-fashioned fill-in-the-number children’s craft book.
Jessica Tomaino of WAHI Studio in Newfane will be one of the artists, and will also be holding the chalk for the color-in-the-number fun of July when the murals are projected to be complete.
When she’s not showing groups how to splatter paint and draw at WAHI, Tomaino is a muralist by profession and happy to contribute to the countywide project.
“I did my first mural in 2017 at the Kenan Center. It was a box mural,” she said. “Chalking is considered a mural art form and I’ve been doing that since 2015, but the actual painting and permanent installation, it’s only been this year. I started in September.”
Tomaino said she met Mike Weber of Niagara County Entertainment years ago through Lockport’s 247 Gallery and last year, he reached out to her about the project.
“He said, ‘You’re sure you know how to handle a paintbrush, right?’,” she said. “That was even before I was considering mural-ing as a trade or profession. I was like, ‘Yeah, I can handle a paintbrush, I do this all the time!’ “
“I was on board from the get-go. I had a background in tourism, I graduated from Niagara University with a degree in hospitality events management. This is right up my alley as far as getting people out here and showing them everything we have.”
Tim Martin is described on the project’s Facebook page as a “Muralist/Decorative Painter.” Upon speaking with him, Martin said he was on a job “wood-graining” a wall, literally painting on a wall and making it look like it’s made of wood-grain.
“I can come into your home and create finishes on your wall, so it looks like wallpaper,” Martin said. “I can make things look like wood that aren’t wood, make things look like stone or marble that aren’t stone or marble. And then I can make things look as real or abstract as you want.”
Martin has been in business for 30 years and said this mural-ing business is “all self taught.”
“I went to school for advertising, art director, illustrator for book covers, that kind of stuff. I was an art director for a little bit back in the '80s, but I got fed up sitting at a desk,” he said. “What got me going was when I was sitting at my desk, and I saw a couple guys outside actually painting a billboard when they were hand painted. I happened to call that company up and asked if they needed an art director or a staff artist, and they said, ‘No, but can you paint?’ ”
Martin will be painting a mural in the Village of Youngstown. He said that Weber and himself have known each other for years and Weber reached out to him and the two got the paints for the background of each mural.
In Lewiston, Dayna Hazlett is taking charge of painting the mural at-an-as of yet specified location.
“I’ve started taking on more jobs, more fun, creative outlets,” Hazlett said.
Hazlett lives in Olcott and knows many of the artists in Niagara County from high school in the Town of Newfane. As well as being a body-art painter, Hazlett is the mother of Harrison Hazlett, a 6-year-old who recently got to return to school after a long battle with cancer.
“We’ve just been hanging out, playing, enjoying him being a kid. He was welcomed back to school,” she said. “That was excellent, and that allowed me to get time to put my house in order and de-clutter, things I couldn’t do while he was home full time or in the hospital.”
Hazlett met Weber at a vendor show in Olcott.
“He was sitting behind me, he had his table up, and I thought it would be a good idea to offer face painting if there’s kids there, because I thought there’d be kids there,” Hazlett said and laughed. “Wrong! I think I painted one face that day and it was my son’s. I spent a lot of time talking to Mike. He wrote to me on Facebook Messenger and said, ‘Hey, I have a project I think you might be interested in.’ ”
Hazlett’s body-painting can be admired at her website daynahazlett.wixsite.com/home, as well as, different publications like Auxiliary Magazine. She said this is her first professional mural, but she did paint a giant billboard modeled after the "Jaws" movie that is now hanging in her garage.
“It’s the girl sitting in the raft and the shark fin,” she said. “Instead of saying ‘Welcome to Amity,’ it says, ‘Welcome to Olcott Beach.’ It’s for birthday parties and stuff.”
More information about the project can be found on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/interactivemural. Donations and sponsorship inquiries to help the project can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The project is also being supported by a $1,500 NYS Decentralization grant facilitated by Arts Services, Inc.