Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gina Hampson

You could say that Gina Hampson's art is worldwide. Not like you think that is in art galleries, but on Google Earth. If you have a computer, you can download a program, type in Wellsville, the world will spin, and go straight to Wellsville. But once there, there will be blue blocks over the city, use your mouse, left click, and BLAM! The flood wall murals will show. So, anyone in the world, who has this program, can see her work there.

But just by talking with Gina, it seems that she is not too worried about world-wide recognition. She loves art! To her it is fun, it is beauty. Listening to Gina talk, gave me the feeling that art was more of a pleasure to do. She enjoys it, and accepts the challenges that she faces when she accepts a project. To her this is a labor of love.

Ms. Hampton is not from Wellsville, but her presence here every spring and summer painting the murals on the flood wall kind of makes her feel like a resident. Whenever she is in town to paint, people stop by, look at her work, talk with her, and give her compliments, telling her what a nice job she is doing. That makes her feel good, that her art can make someone smile, even if it is for a few minutes of the day. Gina is a 1980 graduate from Alliance, Ohio. She got started in art with her dad by drawing the pictures from the TV Guides. Remember those? I do, because I tried to do those and couldn't do them. Over the years, she honed her skills from the magazines, to canvas, to bedroom walls, bars, and flood walls. Her work can be seen all over Wellsville from inside The Busy Bee and back of it, to The Melvin Newlin Memorial.

How she got started doing the murals was through word-of-mouth and the Wellsville Revitalization Committee approached her with the idea about painting the flood wall. Candy Bangor and Connie Carmichael of the WRC saw her work at various establishments and decide to ask her about doing the flood wall project. She accepted, not realizing, and to her surprise, 'What did I get myself into?', as she laughed. Explains Connie, " It was like the blind leading the blind, but confident of her work." While all her work is mainly inside, outside work was new to her. Not knowing what kind of paint to use, she had to ask other painters what they used on concrete, and the committee also did some research as well, calling all over the United States and Canada about what paint to use and sealer because they want it to last. Once she found out, she got started. But before she can actually get started, the fire department has to hose down the wall and patch up any holes or cracks that may be in the way. Everything is free-hand, no projectors. Even though the use of projectors would have been easier and faster, doing it free-hand was more personal. Gina has been painting the murals now for about 5 years.

Not recognizing the significance and the importance of the history Wellsville has, she was asked by a woman why there was no African-Americans on the wall. Having come from a city like Alliance, with the diverse ethnic background they have, it was an oversight that she made, but soon corrected. But Candy explained that it was a conscience effort to put all kinds of ethnic background on the wall. And if you go and view the wall you can see that there is. Even though there are alot of people, and faces on the wall, you really can not tell what group is what, but that's ok. I'm pretty sure all ethnic groups are well represented, and that makes Gina and the committee feel good. " We want all of Wellsville represented" says Connie.

When people stop by to see her work, she is surprised by the amount of support and encouragement that she receives. She is also surprised that she has not receives any criticism. Not all people are going to like something like a project of this magnitude, and if there is criticism, no one is saying anything. But she has to laugh because when people are watching her paint they hardly say much, but when she is finished with a mural, people will point out something that is wrong with the painting. " I paint the picture that is given to me and that is all I have to go on".

While I told her that I had a few favorite murals, like The Tastee Freeze, she had one as well. It is the mural of the Armed Forces with the battle and hospital ship, and a face of a man with the last name Madden. The reason why she likes this is one of her favorites, was because she was able to put a face on one of the projects because no portraits are allowed in any of the murals. But as Connie and Cathy both explained that a portrait wouldn't look right with just one large head shot, but could put smaller head shots on a mural, depending on family, money and committee votes. But if something could be worked out to have just one portraits then it could become something they could do in the future. It would be nice if that could happen because there are quite of few people who rightfully deserve to go up on the wall. But they have policies in place that they have to go by and must be respected.

Both Candy and Connie stated that the committee hopes that the mural project is a springboard to help jump start Gina's career not just as an artist but as an mural artist. Gina is a talent who's work should be seen and not hidden. They also hope the project will bring in tourist. Almost every time I go uptown to the store and I see Gina's car, I can bet I can see people up there viewing her work. And I bet they are from out of town too. Word of mouth is a powerful tool to use when you want to give praise about someone and/or their work. And I do hope she does get the recognition that she so rightfully deserve. Gina didn't have to do it. But she did. It was a challenge, a challenge she met head on and so far is beating that challenge.

In case you are wondering about if Gina is getting paid, she is. Most of the money comes from donations and private work. Anything that the committee receives is greatly appreciated. They don't do tag days, but do have events like the Halloween walk and from a couple of months ago, the Old Grey Mayors basketball game, a game between Wellsville and East Liverpool (East Liverpool won, booo, BOOOOO).

With at least 2 more years left on the project you can bet to see Gina back at the wall to finish the wall. Either on the ladder on sitting on the ground she brushes on. The only thing that will stop her is bad weather. On a bright shiny day and you see a small black car parked across from the Boy With the Leaky Boot, Gina is on the other side painting away. And when she is done, more lights will go up, more people will visit the wall, taking pictures. For some reason or another the Murals will be the 'Pride Of Wellsville'. We all have Gina Hampson to thank for that. Thank you Gina for the years of of hard work and sacrifice you put into this project. Without you the wall would not look as good as they do and hopefully will look good for years to come. Maybe, just maybe the future generation of Wellsville will appreciate the murals like the generation of now does. We all see what our Wellsville used to look like and and can remember those days of long ago. We all have our favorites, I know I do (TASTEE FREEZE). If you have the chance, go on up and say hi, tell Gina what a wonderful job she is doing. Gina you may not be from Wellsville, but for now, you are one of us, a Wellsvillian.

Thank You and Take Care.

Editors note: The murals are on the Internet. On on these sites: Discoverohio.com., look under artist paint the village.

Gina isn't the only one with talent in her family. She has a sister who lives in Baltimore, Md. and she goes by the name Unicycle Lady, (unicycle lady.com).

And if you know someone that is on the Revitalization Committee, give them some praise for their efforts on trying to make Wellsville a better place to live.

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