Jenna Morello is out of her element.
On a breezy morning in downtown Crawfordsville, she stood on a hydraulic lift in an alley across from the Montgomery County Courthouse, spray painting flowers on the side of the Milligan’s Flowers and Gifts building.
The Brooklyn-based street artist has transformed the sides of laundromats, hotels and even a floor of the rebuilt 4 World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan into enormous, vibrant murals. But when the Tippecanoe Arts Federation brought her to Crawfordsville it was the first time she’d been asked to paint an alley, and it took some time up on the lift to understand the appeal.
“It becomes an immersive experience,” she said of viewing art in alley spaces.
Morello began working Saturday on the 135-foot-wide mural, which will feature various wildflowers native to Indiana. She’s scheduled to be in town through Oct. 5. Morello has worked in Rensselaer and is scheduled to return to Indiana next month for another federation-supported mural project.
The project is funded through a grant awarded to the federation by the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network, which commissioned murals in its 10-county service region. The Montgomery County Community Foundation also pledged funding.
Artists submitted proposals to a local selection committee, which considered themes brainstormed by residents at a 2018 workshop hosted by Peter Kageyama, author of the book “Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places.”
Morello, who often works with nature themes, also presented concepts for forest and cloud murals. Milligan’s owner Susan Rosen sat on the selection committee.
“They were all amazing designs but it came down to what fit best in the alley,” said Kelly Taylor, CEO of the foundation.
The community got its first look at Morello’s work Saturday when the foundation served free coffee and doughnuts to help kickoff the project. Art stations were set up allowing spectators to paint alongside her. Some of their work will be displayed in the vacant storefront next to Milligan’s.
Members of the public are invited to observe Morello as she works. Children from Rainbows & Rhymes Preschool and Child Care and art students from Wabash College are scheduled to visit this week.
The college has provided housing for Morello and her meals are being prepared by members of the Montgomery County Art League and the foundation’s board.
“She’s getting a great taste of the community as a whole,” said Sarah Storms, the foundation’s communications and scholarship director.
A mural dedication ceremony is set for 11 a.m. Saturday led by the federation featuring Mayor Todd Barton and representatives from the league and foundation.
The project is also supported by the City of Crawfordsville, Visit Montgomery County Indiana, Crawfordsville Main Street and B&L Engineering.
For more information on the project and Morello’s work, visit mccf-in.org/alley-art. Daily updates will be posted on the foundation’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.