By Terry Rogers
Downtown Milford, Inc. (DMI) recently announced the We Are Milford Mural project, a collaborative effort directed by an all volunteer committee of artists, local business owners and community organizers. The 288-square foot mural will be installed on the side of Arena’s in Milford that will be visible to pedestrians and drivers on Park Avenue.
“Three local artists designed the mural with input from the organizing committee,” said Noa Kornbluh, Main Street Community Coordinator for DMI. “The 24-by-12-foot mural is painted on nine panels of marine grade plywood. We hope to unveil the finished mural in early April with an event open to the public.”
There are nine volunteers on the committee, including the three lead artists – Lori Conner, Gilberto Rodriguez and DeMarcus Shelborne. There were also six Milford High School students who assisted the artists in painting the mural. Ms. Kornbluh said that the committee hoped that the mural would be the encourage others to develop public art projects throughout downtown. Although there are no more murals planned presently, she said the group would like to see other business in the downtown area reach out to the artists directly about creating one on their building.
“The slogan for the mural is ‘River Town, Art Town, Home Town’, the branding used for the town,” Ms. Kornbluh said. “The mural includes depictions of all three of these aspects. We knew that we wanted the mural placed close to the river to bring people into the heart of Milford.” She said that the project provides an opportunity for art and the community to interact.
Ramsey Schrader, owner of Arena’s, said that his company planned to light the mural so that it would be seen clearly at night. “We have taken on the expense of lighting the mural,” Mr. Schrader said at a workshop to review the Downtown Milford Riverwalk Rebirth plan. “We feel that this is just one of the many projects that will bring more people downtown. We wanted to be sure that, no matter when someone traveled down Park Avenue, they could see the mural.”
The artists that are helping to create the mural, along with several Milford High School students, come from several diverse backgrounds and experiences in the art world. Lori Conner is a self-taught artist who was born and raised in Southern California. As the owner of Blu Butterfly, her art studio in Milford, Ms. Conner instructs people of all ages in the art of painting on canvas. She also works offsite painting commissioned murals such as one at the Dover Air Force Base Pax Terminal and Kaza Medical Group in Dover.
Gilberto Rodriguez is originally from Cordoba, Veracruz, Mexico. At the age of six, his first professional art pieces were acrylics and watercolor on canvas and paper. He has been married to his wife, Blanca for almost 15 years and they have three children, Korayma, Carlo and Sharon. Mr. Rodriguez has a permanent display at the Georgetown Public Library and has displayed his work at art shows at Delaware State University, Mispillion Art League, The Upper Crust in Georgetown, the Hispanic Festival and the Rehoboth Film Festival. He recently created the Crystal Restaurant mural in Rehoboth Beach based on Molyvos Lesbos, Greece.
Demarcus Shelborne attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia from 2002-2004, studying media arts and animation, hoping to enter graphic design. In 2008, while expecting his daughter’s arrival, he trained as a tattoo artist in order to maintain a career based in art that was still profitable. In 2015, he opened Body Canvas Tattoo Shop in Milford, introducing a bi-monthly “Life-In-Color” exhibit in order to create a platform for talented urban artists throughout the tri-state area. He has not forgotten his roots in other mediums, however. Mr. Shelborne paints in acrylic or watercolor, does charcoal work, as well as mixed-medium pieces.
Milford High School students involved in the mural project include Adrianna Campos, Christian Barron,Jasmine Castaneda, Esther Lee, Jose Casanora-Melendez and Neishaly Romero.
Ms. Kornbluh said that the mural would depict a home town that reflected the many different cultures and backgrounds that make the Milford Community what it is. to learn more about the artists and get a better understanding of the importance of the mural to the downtown area.