By Dedra Cordle
The idea of a group of people coming together to talk about their differences hasn’t always been divisive.
“There used to be a time when you could sit down with your friends, family or strangers, share your views and experiences, and still come away liking them,” said John Rush.
He said that practice of expression, of tolerance, has been slowly chipping away for years.
“Everything is so polarized right now,” said Rush. “We can’t figure out a way to sit down at a table together and talk anymore.”
He said that while he knows it may take some time to bridge that divide, he still believes in the power of people coming together in order to pursue a better world.
One of the best examples of that steadfast certainty, he said, was the recent installation of a large mural commissioned by the local non-profit Summer Jam West (SJW).
Designed by Columbus-based artists Marcus Billingsley, Thom Glick, and Lucie Shearer, the triad colored mural shows three people sitting around a table, sharing food, sharing drinks, sharing conversation and comradery. Who they are in relation to each other, as well as what they are discussing, is left up to the individual.
“All art is open for interpretation,” said Shearer, “but we deliberately left open those talk bubbles you see at the top so people can use their imaginations to literally fill in the blanks.”
People who attended the public dedication of the mural, which is located on the side of the building at Third Way Café on West Broad Street, had fun putting words in their mouths.
“They’re talking about their location,” said one.
“They’re debating on who is wearing the coolest glasses,” said another.
“They’re making fun of the adult guy who is eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” joked Billingsley, adding that it was included because of his own fondness for them.
Rush and his son Tim, co-owners of Third Way Café, watched these scenes in amusement.
“This is exactly what we wanted when we gave permission for this mural to be placed here,” said Tim Rush during the event. “It’s bringing people in the community together, and that is what we all want to see.”
Danny Peterson, executive director of SJW, agreed with that sentiment.
“Our theme for this year – which was generously borrowed from an expression John and Tim like to use – is ‘Pursuing Good Together’ and it is best exemplified by these artists and their creation.”
He said Billingsley, Glick and Shearer had not worked together before this project, but their design concept for SJW’s annual mural contest made it seem like they had been a team for years.
“They all have their own creative style, but their vision was seamless,” he said. “It was just stunningly executed.”
Peterson said the artists should be proud of their work and take pride in the impact their art is going to have on the community for years to come.
“I think the message of their piece, along with the story of how three people from different backgrounds all came together with one goal in mind, can serve as a reminder of what we can do if we all work together to pursue something better for our world.”