Brightening up a corner of Dover: Mural project aims to unite downtown community

DOVER — A little bit of color and creativity can go a long way towards establishing a sense of community.

At least that’s what Wesley College’s Joshua Nobiling and Chanda Jackson from NCALL Research and its Restoring Central Dover initiative have in mind.

Mr. Nobiling and Ms. Jackson are spearheading a mural project they hope will brighten up a city playground that stands at the corner of Division and Kirkwood Streets in downtown Dover.

The idea for a mural was sprung from a Restoring Central Dover community engagement residents’ work group.

Mr. Nobiling, an assistant professor of art at Wesley, is the creative mind behind the project while Ms. Jackson is the one who works on getting the community in the area involved.

Wesley artist Joshua Nobiling, left, and Chanda Jackson with NCALL plan on creating a mural at the park on Kirkwood Street. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Recent cold weather has pushed the project back a little bit but has not been able to dampen enthusiasm for the mural.

“We’re extending our deadline,” said Mr. Nobiling. “Originally we were planning on being done by the 24th of March but we’re going to extend it further out into spring so we can have some more time to gather input from the community.”

The plan is to tear down an 85-foot-long rusting chain-link fence and replace it with a permanent 115-foot wooden privacy fence that will support the mural, which will be designed and painted by community members.

“We’ve decided to go with a quilt theme and we’re still asking people to kind of submit their ideas and things like that for us,” Mr. Nobiling said. “The design isn’t fully realized yet. We’re still working on that as a committee and gathering input.

“It’ll be a big one. It’ll be kind of unified through harmonious colors, shapes and things like that.”

Ms. Jackson said it is the first mural project that the Restoring Central Dover initiative has taken on.

She’s excited about the project, which will be done using the art studio, equipment and supplies that will be provided by Wesley College.

Money for the 14 separate mural panels, as well as the fence that they will be placed upon, will come from NCALL or a grant previously provided by Wells Fargo.

Chanda Jackson with NCALL, left, and Wesley artist Joshua Nobiling talk about the planned mural at the park on Kirkwood Street in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We had a couple of community meetings and had people come out and express their opinion on what they’d like to see on it,” Ms. Jackson said. “We’re definitely looking for more interest, including youth groups and other community groups.

“The theme of the mural is going to be a quilt, so people can paint the same idea or have their own little section and paint whatever they’d like.”

Mr. Nobiling said painting the murals on 14 different panels not only makes it easier for the artists who will provide the art, but will also make it less tedious for maintenance should any repair work be needed.

Once the mural is completed, it will be protected with a double coating of an ultraviolet protective finish that is designed to keep the colors from fading.

“It’s going to be about 14 panels across and actually there’s going to be a substructure to replace the fence, so that will be made out of an exterior grade plywood that will resist termites and weather and things like that,” he said. “The panels themselves are actually going to be painted at Wesley and then we’ll mount them on top of the substructure.”

The biggest goal, according to Mr. Nobiling, is to get the Kirkwood-area community involved in the project and working alongside Wesley College art students.

He believes the mural will give the city park’s southeast boundary an added sense of “community” once it is complete.

“People don’t need to have experience painting,” said Mr. Nobiling, an Illinois native who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Fine Arts, the latter earned in 2012 from the University of Delaware. “People can learn from me and I’ll also have my students involved as well. We don’t want anybody to think that they can’t participate because they’re not an artist.

“We’ll be housing the project in Wesley studios. Once we begin the painting, pretty much Monday through Friday I’ll be there from 1 until 5 (p.m.) and anybody from the community can stop in and see me. It will be in the Longwood Building of Wesley in Room 101.”

Ms. Jackson said that similar-type murals have been planned before, but none involved the community nearly as closely.

“This one is resident-led so that makes it stand out more,” said Ms. Jackson. “It allows residents to have input as to what they want their neighborhood to look like.

“Right now we are priming the panels and once the panels are primed we’re going to have residents and people of the community to come by Wesley College and paint. I can’t wait to see the finished product.”

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