Against a backdrop of cool blues and greens, countless fish swim along Edinburgh’s Big Blue River.
The fish, skipping through drifting seaweed and around whirlpools, seemed the perfect representation for the blank wall that abuts the city’s causeway. When artist Chelsie Liberati painted a mural meant to depict Edinburgh, all she could see was a water scene.
“Whenever I think of Edinburgh, I think of the huge dam there. I wanted to create a modern, elegant design that was simple enough for the community to paint successfully, but also something that would stand the test of time and look good 10 years from now,” said the Whiteland resident.
Liberati’s design was selected as the winner of this year’s Color the County contest, an annual public space beautification program throughout Johnson County. The mural is painted on a wall along West Center Cross Street as visitors enter Edinburgh.
“This piece will become a landmark for many Edinburgh visitors and locals,” said Dave Windisch, artistic director of mural design for the Johnson County Community Foundation and a Color the County committee member.
The public is invited to bring the mural to life during a community meal day on July 30th. Art supplies and refreshments are provided, and the mural’s paint-by-numbers style means anyone can participate — even those who doubt their own artistic talent.
“It’s fun to see people who may never have been involved with art do something creative like this,” she said. “It will be a great place to meet and get to know people.”
For the past seven years, Color the County has brought together local artists and residents to beautify public spaces. The Johnson County Community Foundation organized the design and creation of 11 murals featuring artwork in Franklin, Greenwood, Bargersville, Trafalgar, Edinburgh and Whiteland.
The program was launched in 2016 when the community foundation wanted to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The idea was to connect people through a collaborative process of mural painting, transforming public spaces and the identity of neighborhoods.
Instead of hiring an artist to create the wall design, the organizers accepted submissions from the community.
Wall designs range from soothing silhouettes of children and adults playing with bubbles, to funky Ben Franklins and kites flying in the sky, to bright red cardinals. Despite their depictions, each has used vibrant color to create undeniably eye-catching mural landscapes.
“I’ve been trying to get my foot in the door in the community simply because I want to make this a place that loves art and is involved with art. That was the perfect move,” said Liberati.
Liberati has been immersed in art for most of her life and has been painting murals professionally since graduating with a painting major from Savannah College of Art and Design.
She worked as a commercial muralist, creating wall-sized artworks for companies across the country.
“I would travel around the country and draw things like laser tag, golf courses, arcades and things like that,” she said. “It was a great learning experience and taught me how to use an airbrush which helps me paint very quickly. I had to draw fun stuff like T. rexes and hyper themed space stuff.”
Through the Indy Mural Fest, Liberati also had the opportunity to paint her own paintings. Local residents and businesses have also asked her to create murals on their own properties.
When she found out about the Color the County program, she really wanted to be part of it.
“I think it’s great that it’s a community outreach. It’s really important to have art in it and to give each community its own little fingerprint,” she said. “It creates a place of conversation and connectivity for everyone.”
Liberati’s design, which will be placed on the south wall of the building that houses Gary’s Dam Bait Shop, combined Edinburgh’s natural beauty along the river with its close proximity and connection to Camp Atterbury, just down the road.
“The ability to combine the location of the river and dam with the fish and a secondary, almost subliminal, connection to Camp Atterbury, with the topographic lines mimicking a camouflage pattern, is outstanding,” Windisch said.
One of the most unique aspects of Color the County is the way it gives ownership of its creation to the community. People come to the public painting days to paint the mural over the course of a morning.
In preparation for the community’s Coloring Day, Liberati and others will work with the Johnson County Community Foundation to prepare the site for July 30. They will project Liberati’s design onto the wall, mark it up, and number the sections for people to easily paint on Number that day.
“It will be exciting to see it come alive,” said Liberati.