An untitled mural created by Cooper Lamb, Sydney Affolter, Aiden O’Doherty, teacher Jim Giar, Sidney Heaton, Gianna Crimaldi and Liza Woods is expected to be unveiled this week at BAYarts near the Sullivan Family Gallery.

Art lovers may notice a new vibrant installation overlooking the BAYarts campus this month with a positive message for uncertain times.

A $1,000 four-panel, 8-foot-by-16-foot colorful mural is expected to be unveiled this week. With luminous reds, oranges and yellows mixed with cool blues and words like “dream,” “unity” and “create” surrounding the sun, the organization wants to uplift the Westshore.

“The message is of hope and community in these challenging times,” Executive Director Nancy Heaton said in an email. The mural will hang on the west side of the Huntington Playhouse and overlook the Sullivan Family Gallery, where events at BAYarts are held. Personalized squares will be placed around the mural and can be bought on, she added.

Students in the organization’s seven-member Advanced Cartooning class began the project as a way to finish off their spring courses. At the end of the season, the class, which focuses on storytelling through illustration, would have gotten an art exhibit to display its work. However, because of COVID19, there wasn’t one.

“This is something that hasn’t happened in 100 years,” said class teacher Jim Giar, 57. “Everybody has been stuck in their homes, especially these kids. They never got to finish their class because of the pandemic. We thought this was a great way to get them back together and do something we haven’t done before.”

In July, the group began planning and designing the mural. The project took four six-hour days over the course of four weeks to complete. Using latex-based paint, the students began painting the mural by laying down a base coat of blues and eventually adding other colors while painting the woman, clouds and messages.

“The hardest part of the project was getting it started,” said student Sydney Affolter, 17. “Every day we came in to work, we spent almost 20 minutes looking at the blank mural before starting because we were so nervous to make a mistake.”

At first, the group tried to paint the mural using an oil-based spray paint. However, because of the heat and humidity, the paint began to run so the group had to start over, Sydney said.

Despite these obstacles, the mural was completed in early August. The group’s favorite part of the entire process was working together to create something the community would enjoy for years to come.

“Normally our class has 10 or 11 students in it,” Sydney said. “Even though only seven of us came out to work on the mural, it was nice to see them before we all went our separate ways.”

Sydney has been working with Giar since the eighth grade, but she started taking art classes at BAYarts in the fourth grade. She moved to Avon Lake when she was 5 and likes a mix of art styles including realism painting and film photography. She will be a junior at Avon Lake High School. There, she hopes to finish her mural of The Life of Pi’s book cover that she started before the pandemic.

Giar has been a part of arts his entire life also. He’s a part of the Rust Belt Monster Collective and has helped create 15 live murals for the Cleveland Museum of Art, BAYarts and the Great Lakes Brewing Co. He also illustrated Once Upon a Time Machine, a comic that reimagines classic fairy tales with a sci-fi twist, by Darkhorse comics. The lifelong Elyria resident has been teaching at BAYarts for six years.

Giar hopes that the work his class has done will bring people back to a time before the pandemic.

“Everybody is living their day hour by hour because everything changes so quickly,” Giar said. “I think it’s a return to normalcy to see people still creating something and putting it out there for everybody to see.”

Contact this reporter at or 216-307-6614.

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