Against a backdrop of cool blues and greens, multitudes of fish will swim along the Big Blue River in Edinburgh.
The fish, bobbing through drifting seaweed and around eddies of water, seemed to be the perfect representation for the blank wall abutting the town’s dam. When artist Chelsie Liberati pictured a mural to represent Edinburgh, a water scene was all she could see.
“Whenever I think of Edinburgh, I think of the huge dam there. I wanted to give a modern, sleek design that would be simple enough for the community to have success painting but also something that would stand the test of time and look good in 10 years,” the Whiteland resident said.
Liberati’s design has been chosen as the winner of this year’s Color the County contest, an annual program meant to beautify public spaces throughout Johnson County. The mural will be 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, the Johnson County Community Foundation’s mural design artistic lead and Color the County committee member.
The public is invited to help bring the mural to life during a community painting day on July 30. Painting supplies and refreshments will be provided, and the paint-by-numbers style of the mural means that anyone can take part — even those doubting their own artistic talent.
“It’s fun to watch people who maybe have never been involved in art get to do something so creative,” she said. “It will be a great place to meet people and get to know them.”
For the past seven years, Color the County has brought local artists and residents together to beautify public spaces. The Johnson County Community Foundation has organized the design and creation of 11 murals, with artwork in Franklin, Greenwood, Bargersville, Trafalgar, Edinburgh and Whiteland.
The program was created in 2016 as the community foundation looked to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The idea was to connect people through a collaborative process of making murals, and transforming public spaces and the identities of neighborhoods.
Instead of commissioning an artist to create the mural design, organizers accepted submissions from the community.
The mural designs have ranged from calming 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 employed vibrant color to form undeniably noticeable wallscapes.
“It’s something I’ve been trying to get my foot in the door in the community, just because I do want to make this a place that loves art and is involved in art. This was the perfect step,” Liberati said.
Liberati has been immersed in art for most of her life, and professionally in painting murals since she graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design as a painting major.
She worked as a commercial muralist, creating wall-sized works of art for businesses around the country.
“I would travel the country painting things like laser tags, golf courses, arcades, things like that,” she said. “It was a big learning experience, and taught me how to use an airbrush, which helps me paint really quickly. I got to paint fun stuff like T. rexes and hyper-themed space stuff.”
Through Indy Mural Fest, Liberati also had the chance to make her own paintings. Local residents and businesses have also asked her to make murals on their own properties.
So when she learned about the Color the County program, she wanted to be part of it.
“I love that it’s an outreach for the community. It’s really important to have art infused within that, and gives each community its own little fingerprint,” she said. “It creates a place of conversation and connectivity for everyone.”
Liberati’s design, which will go on the south wall of the building housing Gary’s Dam Bait Shop, tied together 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, attachment to Camp Atterbury with the topographical lines mimicking a camouflage pattern is outstanding,” Windisch said.
One of the most unique aspects of Color the County is the way it gives the community ownership in its creation. People come out to the public painting days to color in the mural over the course of a morning.
In preparation for the community painting day, Liberati and others with the Johnson County Community Foundation will get the site ready for July 30. They’ll project Liberati’s design on the wall, draw it out and number the sections, so people can easily paint by number that day.
“It’ll be exciting to see it come alive,” Liberati said.
IF YOU GO
Paint Your Town! Edinburgh
What: A community painting day encouraging the public to come together and create a mural designed by artist Chelsie Liberati. The mural is part of the Color the County program, through the Johnson County Community Foundation.
When: 9 a.m. to noon July 30
Where: Gary’s Dam Bait Shop, 592 W. Center Cross St., Edinburgh
Who can take part: The event is open to all; no artistic ability is necessary.
Participants will receive supplies, water and snacks. Kids will get free coloring books and paint sets, and activities will be set up for them.