Bright blue, yellow, and red pieces of glass make up the word LOVE in a colorful mural soon to be displayed on the Water Street wall of the Oasis Fine Art & Craft building.
Barbara Camph and Sally Ridgway serve as board members of Oasis and helped make the vision for the mural come to life. Originally their idea was to have large planters that said ‘LOVE’ across the street, but after that fell through they focused on the space to the left of their existing mural on Water Street.
Their goals for the project? They wanted the mural to celebrate the diversity of the community, for Harrisonburg High School students to participate, and, of course, for it to be colorful.
Students from the HHS Student Ambassador program were given small white tiles that they used to write ‘love’ in their native language. About 60 different languages are represented, including Russian, Kurdish, Ethiopian, and more.
The Student Ambassador program serves as a community building and bullying prevention program at HHS. Dave Ward, who started the program said, (in email)
“Our students are proud of who they are, where they come from, and how that makes our community a more rich place to live… they love sharing their cultures with others.”
Camph and Ridgway took care to ensure that every tile was placed in the way that language is read and are in the process of making a plaque that will include a key to identify each language on the mural. To protect the tiles from weathering, they were coated in UV-protective resin.
Why the word ‘LOVE’? Camph grinned when I asked.
“It’s the Friendly City. Love is out there,” she said.
“The word ‘LOVE’ epitomizes Harrisonburg,” Ridgway added.
Close-up of Barbara Camph working on the LOVEworks mural
The LOVEworks program is a state-wide branding initiative designed to promote travel in Virginia and strengthen awareness of the “Virginia is for Lovers” message. There are grants available through the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and after Camph learned about the program, she decided to apply.
They were recently awarded the grant, and created a social media marketing campaign to help spread awareness. Visitors can take a picture with the mural and post it to social media using the hashtags that OASIS will provide. Once they do, they will receive a free art button with a picture of the LOVEwork mural.
Oasis has always made it a priority to be involved in the community. They were the first art co-op in Harrisonburg, almost 20 years ago. Part of their charter is “community outreach, working with the community, and community education.”
“We believe in public art and having kids’ programs. It’s a part of our mission and something we work hard to do,” said Camph. “We’re always looking for opportunities to work alongside the community.”
The mural will be displayed at Oasis during this month’s First Fridays Downtown. Once the mural and plaque are fully complete there will be a ceremony to dedicate the mural.
Sally Ridgway working on the frame for the mural