LOGANSPORT, Ind. — Mollie Graybeal always wanted to be a graffiti artist, but she never wanted to break the law.
So she spray paints works of art in the alley behind her and her family’s furniture business in downtown Logansport. It’s caught the attention of other local property owners who want her to brighten their buildings too. Graybeal is motivated by a desire to not only liven the passageways filled with bricks and pavement, but to do the same to travelers making their way through places where art is one of the last things they’d expect to find.
Graybeal’s family has owned The Gray Mill building at 500 E. Broadway since 1973.
Staff parks behind the building, off the alley.
“Why does it have to look so dang dreary?” Graybeal said she often thought when coming in to work.
Then one day this August, she went out back to pick weeds when inspiration struck her. What followed was an acrylic painting her brother and friends helped her with, depicting an underwater scene of tropical fish, a bird floating above and a worm on a fish hook. Framed in acrylic glass, the painting hangs on the side of The Gray Mill’s air conditioner in the alley.
Graybeal said it started out as a wish to brighten up the area for her fellow business co-owners — Mike Graybeal, her father, and Bill Graybeal, her uncle, have been parking there for decades. She later spray painted an ocean sunset mural on a back door not far from the air conditioner. That and the underwater scene are nods to her dad and uncle’s love of fishing and annual trips to Key West.
Farther down the alley is a spray paint mural of a tree with bright flowers below it centered on a loading dock door that branches beyond the surrounding brick onto doors flanking it.
Another door on the opposite side of the alley was spray painted with large flowers rising up against a blue sky.
Graybeal said the works represent her admiration for nature and her desire to clash with all the brick and pavement surrounding her paintings.
Her colleagues aren’t the only ones reacting to her work. Graybeal said feedback from passersby has been positive, especially after they discover she’s not vandalizing the building.
Mike Graybeal recalled being open to his daughter’s idea of painting up the alley behind the store.
“I thought it was kind of neat — have a fun and artsy way to upgrade an alley that people are walking in,” he said.
Bill Graybeal said the murals put a smile on his face whenever he drives down the alley to park behind the business.
“I think it’s great — add some color, add some interest to ugly old doors and ugly old alleys,” he said. “It’s wonderful.”
Spray paint is a relatively new medium for Mollie Graybeal, who holds an art history degree from Purdue University and had always gravitated toward acrylic paint, which she said allows for more control. But she said she eventually found herself growing bored with its restrictions. Then about two years ago a friend showed her online videos of street artists spray painting solar system murals.
“What I did was I started to watch how they did the techniques and I started with the space paintings and then I realized, well I can use these same techniques to create a bouquet of flowers,” she said.
Graybeal said she started learning how to blend colors, manipulate spray paint and use tools like sheets of paper and pallet knives to increase the paint’s control.
Outdoor art doesn’t always have to be in the most widely traveled areas, Graybeal said.
“When you beautify the parts of town that people don’t feel safe in or they don’t feel comfortable in, it’s kind of like you change the dynamic of the space,” she said.
She was also inspired to pursue her alley murals by a visit to a West Virginia community that the coal industry left a large amount of money to after having to cease operations in the area. Graybeal said the community used those funds to put art everywhere, even on dumpster’s and boarded up windows.
“Art’s so cool because it’s such a simple thing to everyone else in terms of what it takes to get some type of reaction from it, but it makes people happy,” Graybeal said. “Color makes people happy. Seeing something they never would have expected makes people get a chuckle.”
Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune, http://bit.ly/2yiEvmR
Information from: Pharos-Tribune, http://www.pharostribune.com
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune.