A new art project is going up in the Saint Ita parking lot: a mural inspired by St. Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Sun.
Designed by Michelle Lytle of The Lytle House and installed by renowned muralist Ryan Tova Katz, the mural draws on imagery from the hymn composed by St. Francis:
Lytle approached Fr. Bob Cook, OFM Conv., in 2019 about using the school walls for a mural as a part of the Lytle House Art Initiative, which promotes public art in Edgewater.
Fr. Bob proposed using St. Francis' Canticle of the Sun as the inspiration. St. Francis, the patron saint of the environment, composed the hymn as a song of praise about the connection of all creation, through God as the creator.
Then the pandemic arrived, and the project stalled. Earlier this year, the parish procured the bulk of the funding for both tuck pointing the school walls and the cost of the mural.
Lytle then reached out to Katz to see if she had the time. And as it happened, space had just opened up in the artist's schedule, so she started on the mural.
The design itself is simple, but installing it turned out to be anything but easy.
"Everything has been fighting against us on this one," Katz said in an interview on September 21. "Just access [to the wall] because the church is busy, school letting out. I use a projector to project details on surfaces, and I've been trying for the last three nights to do that. Last night we finally had the night, my assistant came, we were going to do it and at 6 PM, it just downpoured. I was just standing out here in the rain ... Yesterday, it was 90 degrees and it was high winds, so it's like all the elements are fighting you."
That is on top of the fact that in terms of square feet, the mural is one of the largest projects Katz has done.
Part of the logistics of the mural include navigating electric wires, maneuvering the industrial lift, and intense physical labor. Katz ended up purchasing an industrial paint sprayer after spending six hours doing two walls in the darker shade of blue that forms the backdrop for the fire, stars, and moon.
And there's a certain irony that the weather was so inclement when the mural itself is celebrating and appreciating the elements.
"So many things have gone wrong that literally me and Michelle [Lytle] - I don't think either of us are very religious, but we were like: We're going to pray. Because we're working for a church, and if God is around, he must be close by to hear, and maybe he'll make the rain stop!" Katz said.
The mural is nearing completion now. Katz says on her website that: "I want my art to make people look deep into a space, to notice something different every time they see it. I like to take a bold color and place it where it doesn't seem to fit, to give the painting movement."
For her, the Sun on the Saint Ita mural highlights this aspect of her work.
"I'm so excited to finish the sun," Katz said. "I was up there for so many hours, and I came down and I was limping. And I turned and I was like 'Oh. That's nice!' The sun is stunning, and I feel like when this green mountain goes in, it's just going to pop. All the colors are making sense, and Michelle's design is just really nice."
Even with the piece in progress, people are taking notice. People just walking by the church have stopped to take in the artwork, and to let Katz know that they are struck by it.
"Whenever you put a huge piece in a neighborhood, everybody just says: Thank you!" Katz said. "The kids [at St. Thomas of Canterbury School] have come out, and their parents, and they keep saying: 'Thank you! It's beautiful!' And I remember why even though I'm tired, I accept it and keep going."