WADSWORTH — When artist Paulette Grubb was commissioned to paint a series of murals for downtown buildings, she took inspiration from old black-and-white photographs of the community.
One of her paintings showcases the old streetcar that used to run to Akron. Others highlight downtown buildings. And Wadsworth native Laura Spelman Rockefeller and her husband, John D. Rockefeller, a Cleveland oil tycoon, even make an appearance.
Five of Grubb's paintings were installed Friday in the alley off High Street that runs between W.S. Bicksler Electric and the Sub Station. The murals weren't painted directly onto the textured, yellow brick. Instead, her original acrylic paintings were transferred onto a vinyl material with a laminate coating that was then affixed to the building by heat.
The artwork — the largest is 5 by 8 feet — is the first in a series of murals being installed as part of Main Street Wadsworth's ongoing effort to beautify the downtown and attract more visitors. The organization planned to unveil Grubb's murals Friday night during the community's First Friday event, which carried an "Art in the Alleys" theme.
Main Street Wadsworth plans to add more murals in the future, including one 30 by 90 feet that will adorn a wall along Wright Street across from Central Intermediate School. That one, being done in August, will be hand-painted onto the building and feature a collage of Wadsworth images on matchboxes, a tribute to the community's match-making history.
"The goal of a Main Street community is to revitalize the heart of the community by making it a destination," said Adrianne Krauss, executive director of Main Street Wadsworth. "Art murals allow us to celebrate our heritage as a city and also tell our story as a community. Art murals are exciting. They are unique and they are one more reason people have to get in their cars to come downtown and spend a day in Wadsworth."
Dave Reed, a contractor with SpeedPro Imaging Cleveland East in Warrensville Heights, spent Friday morning using a handheld propane torch and roller to shrink-wrap the vinyl onto the brick.
Randy Toddy, who chaired the mural committee and works at Clampco Products in Wadsworth, said the group isn't sure how many murals will be installed, perhaps as many as two dozen.
"We envision having a mural walk and having a guide describe the murals," he said. "That's what we're shooting for before we are done."
Main Street Wadsworth raised $25,000 to kick off the mural project and is still raising money for the effort.
Grubb, a Wadsworth artist, volunteered to work on the project. She's a board member of the Medina County Arts Council and has done murals for Akron Children's Hospital.
She said it was nice to work at home, as opposed to dealing with fickle weather and standing on scaffolding. Her paintings were about half the size of the finished murals, which were magnified when they were transferred to the vinyl material.
Grubb added mounting corners to give the paintings a photo feel.
"The history of Wadsworth is so interesting," said Grubb, who sneaked in the faces of her daughter, grandchildren and others among the people in the murals. "I just wanted to make snapshots of the past."
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.