The story of Highland’s three-walled mural

"What was once a parking lot and three bare walls is now a space for sparking creativity and evoking curiosity and wonder."

Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra

The story of Highland’s three-walled mural

Written by: Lesly Bailey
January 25, 2018


There is a spot in Highland that’s perfect for snapping selfies and capturing high school dance memories while being encircled by art. What was once a parking lot and three bare walls is now a space for sparking creativity and evoking curiosity and wonder.

“It’s almost a completely enclosed space and when you stand in the middle, you are surrounded by all of this artwork and colors and such different ideas,” says Jessica Haug, one of three Region female artists whose talents are on display at 2821 Jewett Street.

The mural project is the brainchild of the Highland Redevelopment Commission and Highland Main Street groups. It all started with a call-out for artists for the first mural on the north wall, which was accepted by Liz Mares during the summer of 2016. Haug’s mural on the west wall was put into place during May 2017, and Melissa Washburn wrapped up the artistic initiative with her east wall design in October 2017.

“It’s been an interesting process to watch,” says Lance Ryskamp, Highland Redevelopment Commission assistant. “It’s great the way they approached it. I love the outcome as they are three different looks, but they blend together really well.”

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There is a spot in Highland that’s perfect for snapping selfies and capturing high school dance memories while being encircled by art. What was once a parking lot and three bare walls is now a space for sparking creativity and evoking curiosity and wonder.

“It’s almost a completely enclosed space and when you stand in the middle, you are surrounded by all of this artwork and colors and such different ideas,” says Jessica Haug, one of three Region female artists whose talents are on display at 2821 Jewett Street.

The mural project is the brainchild of the Highland Redevelopment Commission and Highland Main Street groups. It all started with a call-out for artists for the first mural on the north wall, which was accepted by Liz Mares during the summer of 2016. Haug’s mural on the west wall was put into place during May 2017, and Melissa Washburn wrapped up the artistic initiative with her east wall design in October 2017.

“It’s been an interesting process to watch,” says Lance Ryskamp, Highland Redevelopment Commission assistant. “It’s great the way they approached it. I love the outcome as they are three different looks, but they blend together really well.”

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME

Mares, who is drawn to lines and rudimentary shapes, finds freedom in bringing her no-label artistic style to the world. “The process itself gives real insight into who a person is and connects me with the world. I see art as meditation,” she says. “I am minimalist by nature and like the idea of people having to fill in the blanks rather than having the whole story being there for them.”

Her mural incorporates shapes and lines in vibrant, dynamic colors. “I wanted to create something really bright and lively that was a focal point for people to come by and visit when they’re walking or on the bike trail,” she says.

A Highland resident and self-taught artist, Mares was able to walk down the street to see her platform. She spent five full days on the mural with a template sketch as her guide and using the eyeball method.

Because hers was the first mural to go up, she had many visitors stop by to inquire, but two individuals really stand out. A grandpa and his granddaughter stopped by and actually touched the still-wet mural. Mares says the mother reached out later to say her daughter was so moved by the experience that she now wanted to be an artist as well.

“I think moments like that say a lot about what a person hopes to achieve when creating something,” Mares says. “We want to put inspiration in others when creating and the three of us together have started something and planted the seeds for creativity in a lot of other people.”

Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
Liz Mares
Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
Liz Mares

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME

Mares, who is drawn to lines and rudimentary shapes, finds freedom in bringing her no-label artistic style to the world. “The process itself gives real insight into who a person is and connects me with the world. I see art as meditation,” she says. “I am minimalist by nature and like the idea of people having to fill in the blanks rather than having the whole story being there for them.”

Her mural incorporates shapes and lines in vibrant, dynamic colors. “I wanted to create something really bright and lively that was a focal point for people to come by and visit when they’re walking or on the bike trail,” she says.

A Highland resident and self-taught artist, Mares was able to walk down the street to see her platform. She spent five full days on the mural with a template sketch as her guide and using the eyeball method.

Because hers was the first mural to go up, she had many visitors stop by to inquire, but two individuals really stand out. A grandpa and his granddaughter stopped by and actually touched the still-wet mural. Mares says the mother reached out later to say her daughter was so moved by the experience that she now wanted to be an artist as well.

“I think moments like that say a lot about what a person hopes to achieve when creating something,” Mares says. “We want to put inspiration in others when creating and the three of us together have started something and planted the seeds for creativity in a lot of other people.”

Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
Jessica Haug

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

When Haug heard about the call-out for the second mural, there was no question what she wanted to bring to life on the next wall: a nod to Highland’s Heron Rookery. “About a dozen blue heron families have nests and raise their babies at the rookery. It’s along the walking path and my favorite part of Highland,” she says.

While it was “really intimidating walking up to a giant blank wall,” Haug drew support from her world as a substitute teacher. “I was lucky to have a group of kids who came to help me,” she says. “I made it a paint-by-number. I had one boy who colored the eyes and beak on one of the birds and I heard him tell someone, ‘That’s what I did.’ Ten years from now—when he’s grown up—he will have ownership in that.”

Haug has been working on her art since middle school and now does artwork and photography outside of working part-time in a classroom. “All of my work has a narrative. It’s storytelling for me. My goal is to evoke curiosity,” she says. “I mostly use animals, insects, plants and objects. I express human emotions and situations through animals and objects.

“It’s the easiest way to express myself. Seeing someone else’s interpretation . . . it makes me happy. It’s my outlet.”

Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
Jessica Haug

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

When Haug heard about the call-out for the second mural, there was no question what she wanted to bring to life on the next wall: a nod to Highland’s Heron Rookery. “About a dozen blue heron families have nests and raise their babies at the rookery. It’s along the walking path and my favorite part of Highland,” she says.

While it was “really intimidating walking up to a giant blank wall,” Haug drew support from her world as a substitute teacher. “I was lucky to have a group of kids who came to help me,” she says. “I made it a paint-by-number. I had one boy who colored the eyes and beak on one of the birds and I heard him tell someone, ‘That’s what I did.’ Ten years from now—when he’s grown up—he will have ownership in that.”

Haug has been working on her art since middle school and now does artwork and photography outside of working part-time in a classroom. “All of my work has a narrative. It’s storytelling for me. My goal is to evoke curiosity,” she says. “I mostly use animals, insects, plants and objects. I express human emotions and situations through animals and objects.

“It’s the easiest way to express myself. Seeing someone else’s interpretation . . . it makes me happy. It’s my outlet.”

A BUG’S LIFE

A summer exploration was the foundation for Washburn’s mural design. “I have a passion for the natural world, and I spent the summer researching the plants and pollinators native to the Indiana Dunes during a week at the Calumet Artist Residency in Miller Beach,” she says. “The mural is related to this work, though it depicts the more familiar honeybee. I was working with textile pattern ideas featuring honeycomb and bees, and realized the repeating pattern would be a great starting point for the mural design.”

Though new to the mural-painting realm, Washburn has extensive experience working in museum management, nonprofit arts organizations and graphic design and marketing. She had continued to keep up her own art practice and now does it full time.

“All of my personal work is inspired by the natural world, and nature almost always finds its way into my client work as well,” she says. “I consider what I do visual communication. There’s a real joy in exploring my own curiosity about the natural world through creating, and hopefully sparking that curiosity in someone else.”

As the final artist, Washburn pulled through the colors and themes that are woven throughout the murals. “They share a sense of energy and movement that brings the space together,” she says. “I wanted the structure of the honeycomb to echo the geometric qualities of Liz’s piece and the flowers and bees have the organic/natural quality of Jessica’s mural.”

“Happiness . . . it’s really that simple,” adds Mares about the purpose of the project. “The more you’re surrounded by art and creativity and delve deeply into culture, it lifts the spirit.”

Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
Melissa Washburn
Photo Credit: Michelle Hamstra
Melissa Washburn

A BUG’S LIFE

A summer exploration was the foundation for Washburn’s mural design. “I have a passion for the natural world, and I spent the summer researching the plants and pollinators native to the Indiana Dunes during a week at the Calumet Artist Residency in Miller Beach,” she says. “The mural is related to this work, though it depicts the more familiar honeybee. I was working with textile pattern ideas featuring honeycomb and bees, and realized the repeating pattern would be a great starting point for the mural design.”

Though new to the mural-painting realm, Washburn has extensive experience working in museum management, nonprofit arts organizations and graphic design and marketing. She had continued to keep up her own art practice and now does it full time.

“All of my personal work is inspired by the natural world, and nature almost always finds its way into my client work as well,” she says. “I consider what I do visual communication. There’s a real joy in exploring my own curiosity about the natural world through creating, and hopefully sparking that curiosity in someone else.”

As the final artist, Washburn pulled through the colors and themes that are woven throughout the murals. “They share a sense of energy and movement that brings the space together,” she says. “I wanted the structure of the honeycomb to echo the geometric qualities of Liz’s piece and the flowers and bees have the organic/natural quality of Jessica’s mural.”

“Happiness . . . it’s really that simple,” adds Mares about the purpose of the project. “The more you’re surrounded by art and creativity and delve deeply into culture, it lifts the spirit.”