America Carrillo said she uses spray paint to fill in the rough sketch before going back in the brushes to create larger-than-life murals. Staff photo by Andrew Maciejsewski
America Carrillo said she uses spray paint to fill in the rough sketch before going back in the brushes to create larger-than-life murals. Staff photo by Andrew Maciejsewski
As America Carrillo transferred the vibrant colors from her sketchpad onto a wall in downtown Huntington Tuesday, crowds gathered in awe.

The Huntington native is back to add a splash of character to the corner of Market and Cherry streets as part of an 11 day, 11 county effort to create murals in northeast Indiana. The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership officials say the Make It Your Own Mural Fest’s main goal is to spark community development to help attract and retain talent in Indiana.

“I think America installing a mural here inside of Huntington County is going to be a catalyst to other investments into public art,” Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership public relations and digital marketing manager Jaclyn Goldsborough said. “We’ve already seen a lot of people walk by here today and be very interested in what she’s doing. She’s a hometown hero, and we are just really excited to have her participating with us.”

Carrillo began her 11-day project on Tuesday by drawing a rough outline of the mural and filling it in with a base layer of spray paint to really make the larger-than-life artwork pop.

She said she’s been looking forward to this week for more than a year since she hopes the mural will inspire other local artists to pursue their passions and help contribute to the local art scene.

““I’m honored, I really am. I’ve been trying to do this for a while. Art This Way and Alex Hall really went above and beyond getting everyone on board because it is a new concept for this town,” Carrillo said. “They did all the convincing, which allowed me to step in. I’ve been dreaming about doing this for about a year now, so I’m very excited.”

Goldsborough said studies show that murals and other public projects are critical for attracting businesses to local communities. She said businesses looking to relocate or expand look for a tight-nit community that invests in its quality of life through public art and public projects that foster a sense of culture.

“We honestly see this mural festival as a way to invest in public art and quality of life,” she said. “We want to be proud of our community and the story it has to tell. For our community here in northeast Indiana, it’s all about making it your own.”

While other communities in the region have artists traveling from as far as New York and Kansas to paint murals in the area, Goldsborough said they wanted to tap into the talent of Carrillo in hopes that it inspires other local artists.

“I went to high school here, so my kindergarten teacher lives here, my grandparents live here and my mom and my family live here,” Carrillo said. “My little sisters are also artists, and so for them to be able to see their big sister do something like this is really inspiring them. It’s super cool to do something so close to home.”

Carrillo said that while she was growing up, there was nothing like this in Huntington. Besides her art teachers at Huntington County Community School Corporation, Carrillo said there weren’t many examples of turning art into a career locally.

“That’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to paint a mural here because there’s no street art. This is going to inspire the kids that go to high school now. You know, I didn’t have that in high school or when I was going to school. I didn’t see (murals) until I started traveling, so I’m just hoping that now people don’t have to travel to go see art anymore,” she said. “This is happening right here in their hometown, and they can do it too.”

Carrillo said even if the mural doesn’t inspire other artists to become muralists, she hopes her story helps show that art is alive in Huntington and that people can do anything if they work hard enough.

“I don’t have some special gift,” she said. “I just keep practicing. So maybe if they can see someone who started from ground zero is now doing a wall of this size, maybe they will think, ‘I can do something bigger, too.’ That’s really what I’m hoping for. It’s really not some special gift. it’s having the courage to believe in yourself.”
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