SLIDESHOW: Diversity Mural unveiled in downtown Milford

MILFORD— At first glance, the freshly painted clock on the side of Arena’s in Milford reads 4:10.

But to six Milford Senior High School students and three local artists, it will forever read April 10: the day they unveiled the Diversity Mural they worked so hard to create.

 Artists Gilberto Rodriguez, Lori Conner and DeMarcus Shelborne join Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe and Downtown Milford, Inc. Executive Director Lee Nelson at the unveiling of Milford’s newest mural focusing on diversity. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Artists Gilberto Rodriguez, Lori Conner and DeMarcus Shelborne join Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe and Downtown Milford, Inc. Executive Director Lee Nelson at the unveiling of Milford’s newest mural focusing on diversity. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

“I went to school in Milford and I’ve seen the evolution in the town. I remember when it wasn’t as integrated as it is now,” artist and business owner Demarcus Shelborne told a crowd of close to 100 at the reveal Sunday afternoon.

The idea behind a mural was crafted shortly after DMI brought Noa Kornbluh, an Americorps Vista volunteer, to Milford through the Delaware Economic Development Office to help foster unity and diversity in the town.

“About two years ago, we realized Milford’s about 30 percent minorities, but we didn’t have [programs] for those communities. They’re important to us,” DMI Executive Director Lee Nelson began.

After visiting with minority community members, he said DMI realized how it could help meld communities together: through food and art.

“We had our first international food festival in November,” he said, greeted with applause from those in attendance at the mural reveal.

“We were asked how much food should we make and we didn’t have the faintest idea. So we told them to make 300 servings. Well, we ended up having 700 attendees.”

The diversity mural project began in hopes of taping into the art component.

Painting began in November of 2015, shortly after a volunteer committee began meeting in August. Nine panels of plywood measuring 24 by 12 foot in total stood between the artists and the side wall of Arena’s graciously offered by Milford resident and Arena’s partner Ramsey Schrader.

Mr. Schrader kept his remarks during the event brief, but did say the “sun shines on it a lot,” and the partnership was “a no-brainer.”

The mural will help light up what many consider to be an alleyway as Arena’s has also offered to light it up at night. Before the mural was installed, lighting in that stretch of road was dim at best.

The Riverwalk scene features hands, varying in size and skin color, displayed prominently on the bottom center of the mural with a white outline allowing the idea of unity and inclusiveness to pop at first glance.

Above the hands runs the Mispillion River with the Milford Public Library towering behind, placing the onlooker firmly downtown.

Dancers grace either side of the mural with poise and culture.

Two dancers to the right, seemingly dancing on top of a steady flow of music, are depictions of two of the dancers who performed during an annual Eat in the Street event in downtown Milford.

Dancers to the left of the scene perform an ethnic dance right on the canvas and dressed in Hispanic garb.

The water tower, a town icon, and Downtown Milford’s community board prominently displaying the word, “volunteer,” stand tall atop the performers.

Flags of varying nations, including the United States of America, anchor the mural at the bottom.

And then, there is the clock found along the Riverwalk which permanently points to 4:10, an “Easter Egg” as Ms. Kornbluh referred to it, to pay homage to a day Milford again opened its heart to every culture found in its grasp.

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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