Har Simrit Singh brightens Communica offices with muralWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Outside the back window of Communica is a sight that would bring pause to even the most cynical bystander: A huge, colorful mural covers the back of the building directly behind the office of the advertising and marketing firm on North Erie Street in Downtown Toledo.
The painting’s bright, primary colors and geometric shapes are lovely to look at from any angle, but the whole thing takes on a new dimension when viewed from inside Communica’s offices. The image gives the whole room a new dimension, brightening and illuminating the workspace. Which was a big part of the idea from the start, according to Jeff Kimble, Communica’s CEO.
“Sometime in October, we finished the renovation of the building,” Kimble said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “We never really used to have windows, or the blinds of the windows open. We really only had one office along that back wall, the office was kind of dark and dingy. When we reopened the whole back of the office up, put offices along the back, we started opening the blinds. Now we’re staring at this building that’s painted brown/gray, the paint’s peeling, there’s graffiti scratched out on the wall.”
For a firm that prides itself on bright new ideas, these drab surroundings simply wouldn’t do. So Kimble called Gary Marck, owner of the building behind the office.
“I said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna paint the back of your building.’ He was like, ‘What?’ I said, ‘No, seriously, it’s gonna be fun. We’re gonna paint the back of your building,’” Kimble said. “And then he says, ‘You know, I have a couple buildings over on Adams Street that the Toledo School for the Arts (TSA) put a mural on. Let me get you a contact over there.’”
Through TSA, Communica was connected to Har Simrit Singh, a local graffiti artist known for his work in a wide variety of locations, both interior and exterior.
“When Simrit and I were talking about this, he asked if we had any ideas of what we wanted with this and we really didn’t. And I sat down with the designers in back, and it’s really the design department in the back, and we thought it’d be nice to have something really geometric and design-oriented,” Kimble said.
Born in Chicago but raised in the Glass City, Singh developed a concept for the mural’s look that was guided by Kimble’s admiration for designer/painter Josef Albers.
“There was a lot of elements to integrate into it, but it wasn’t too bad. There was a little bit of challenge compared to what I’m used to working with, but it was definitely something that I enjoyed doing,” Singh said.
After the concept was finalized, the actual creation of the piece ended up taking about three and a half weeks, interruptions by Mother Nature notwithstanding.
“You pretty much have to be at the mercy of the elements. If it’s raining, you can’t really paint, especially when you’re using the latex stuff, which would run right off the wall. So, even temperature-wise, if it gets too cold — I’m using a lot of aerosol for the mural — so if it gets too cold, the paint doesn’t function properly. So you kinda gotta just keep a close eye on the weather, and see what’s thrown at you, day-to-day,” Singh said.
Much of the work on the mural was done by students from TSA, whose work Singh had to carefully monitor.
“I’ve only worked over there with them a handful of times, so a lot of the kids were really still learning a lot of the basic stuff. So at this point, I’m doing a lot of the design, development, coming in and laying the stuff out. And then, having them do a lot of the fill-in areas …just so they can get more familiar with the tools until they’re confident enough so that they can do more of the detail work.”
The end result of the weeks of toil brightens Communica’s office space and the community.
“I truly think this adds credibility to this business. We’ve always touted ourselves on our creative product, and I think this just adds credibility to that, that we were thinking a little out of the box. Not just thinking about advertising, or in client mode, but that we were thinking about our surroundings, and what people experience on the outside of our building,” Kimble said.
“We really believe in Downtown Toledo,” he added. “We’ve been here for more than 20 years, and we are happy being part of the renewed interest in Downtown. The mural is a way for us to bring that spirit into the community, so everyone can enjoy it.”
And for Singh, the impact his work has on others is the biggest factor of all. “I just like to create fun, beautiful stuff for people to look at that enhances people’s quality of life.”