By Kyle Valentini, AloNovus Corp
News Story – 3rd Place
Trained in textile design at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Dover native and 1990 Dover High School graduate Jon Stucky has made a successful living as an artist with his thoughtful paintings and mixed media pieces that often depict a struggle between good and evil through the use of modern, urban and primitive tribal images made more impactful with bright colors and fearless improvisation.
The artist’s latest projects bring the public into the fold as he embarks on a multi-stage endeavor that aims to bring the community together through the shared experience of making and enjoying art.
“Using something as inane as garbage cans, and members of the community are responding,” Stucky said.
The garbage cans Stucky speaks of have been in downtown New Philadelphia for decades and recently became the “canvas” to a privately funded public art project that has included local artists, individuals from Starlight and other volunteers who were willing to get their hands dirty putting together mosaic made up of tiny pieces of glass that are submersible and freezable so they can withstand the oft-times extreme Ohio climate.
Much like pieces used on a tile wall or a backsplash, the mosaic pieces were adhered to a mesh backing, making them easier to apply to the concrete composite receptacles. Once attached to the can with mortar, they are cured for several days and then grouted.
“The project was designed to be a community project,” Stucky said. “One of the biggest confusions is this is my art downtown. While I designed the mosaics, many hands went into creating each one.”
Cassie Elvin, CEO at Starlight Enterprises Inc., said individuals served by the agency have worked with Stucky on this and a mural project completed last year also in downtown New Philadelphia.
“When Jon was painting the mural downtown, he invited us to come and help, and the relationship was established,” Elvin said. “When he got started with the cans, he along with Jeannine Kennedy at the Tuscarawas County Center for the Arts invited us to the center to assist in creating the mosaics. Jon and Jeannine are so open about being inclusive.”
Elvin said the SEI board has been very supportive of the art projects.
“It is always an amazing and creative experience when we work with Jon,” said Tracy Aubihl, community connections manager for SEI. “He has such vision and a wonderful heart.”
“We’re hoping to continue working with Jon and other local artists,” Elvin said. “We’ve got some great ideas.”
Stucky said the project began with conversations that dated back to August 2017 when former New Philadelphia resident Gabriel Riggle crowdsourced the funding needed to facilitate the design for the installation of a bike rack in the shape of a coffee cup outside the Daily Grind on High Avenue.
“The success of that project got us thinking we could do more downtown to encourage public art projects.” Stucky said.
Stucky and Riggle along with representatives from the City of New Philadelphia, Buckeye Career Center and another New Philadelphia resident willing to privately fund a project to beautify downtown met to discuss the installation of a parklet, a sidewalk extension that provides more space and amenities for people using the street near the public parking area between High Avenue and Front Street.
By November, Stucky and volunteers including Dover artist Sarah Dugger, who designed two of the mosaics with a New Philadelphia Quakers theme, delivered three completed cans.
Stucky said city officials were surprised and happy about the direction the project took and gave permission to continue.
On July 6, Stucky delivered another four completed cans.
“Each of the can’s designs relates to something that is there or used to be there,” Stucky said. “One can is covered in candy to represent the former La Fountain’s store, and the 16-bit can is in front of a place that was an arcade in the ‘80s.”
With only two unpainted cans left, Stucky said they’re next on the agenda. Meanwhile another bike rack designed by Stucky will be installed near the parklet, and talks are taking place to create a large-scale mural downtown, which will bring in a nationally known painter who specializes in public wall art.
“We’re holding off announcing more information about the project until the details are worked out,” Stucky said.
Permission has been granted by the city and the owner of a brick building, and funding for the project is in place.
“The City of New Philadelphia is letting the artists lead these projects,” Stucky said. “It’s not political, and with no middleman, the funding for the projects goes from the donor directly to the artist for supplies.”
Stucky said he has been approached by others in the community regarding other public art projects and is receptive to doing more projects downtown and in other areas in the region.
“We are trying to create an arts community where we work on projects that look great and make you engage with the area,” Stucky said.
To learn more, email Stucky at email@example.com.