Photos Cameron Flaisch
Courage and color — according to Xaivier Ringer, co-founder of the Rome Mural CoLab, that is what it takes to realize a new vision for a community. Ringer and fellow co-founder Ellie Borromeo started the collaborative public art project in 2020, and since then they have created two murals… and a much more colorful future for Rome.
“It’s time for us to be grandiose in our vision for Rome,” Ringer says. As Rome natives, both Ringer and Borromeo have a personal interest in improving their home community, and combining their artistic skills and experience has them on the path to doing just that. The duo met last year and hit it off immediately, bonding over a love of art and a desire to improve the place they’ve called home for many years.
“We both have an interest in how we can combine our skills and our passions to continually help better this community,” Borromeo says. “We both have roots here, so we want to see things happen. You can lead in the things you want to see, and if you feel that inclination, you should just step up and do something about it.”
For these two local artists, the time to step up and do something came during a period of great uncertainty. “During the pandemic, I think it allowed things to gain perspective, slow down,” Ringer says. “We really were interested in creating something during that time that allowed people to feel a sense of community and camaraderie in a way that didn’t obligate them to be close to each other, so we thought this would be the perfect time for a mural or a series of murals that would speak to what we’re going through but would also be a call to action.”
Rome Mural CoLab’s community paint days allow Romans to be involved in creating the art that will brighten the city’s public spaces. After Borromeo and Ringer design and plan the murals, they invite members of the community to help with the actual painting. Borromeo, a freelance brand designer, says that involving business owners and employees in the branding design process allows them to feel seen and reflected in the piece.
The same is true for community involvement in public art. “From my perspective working in branding, including stakeholders in the process is a really important part because you want people to feel like this piece is tied to them,” she explains. “The more you can engage with them on their ideas and make them a part of the creation of the piece, the more they feel like it represents them, and it really pulls those people into the piece. We want the community to feel like this is theirs.”
Ringer has also seen this in her international work creating community murals. She has painted over 50 murals in 15 cities and four countries through her company The International Muralist. “Those projects have been very rewarding in the sense that a lot of times I install myself in the community,” she says. “I like working with existing communities or groups so that I’m not doing a one-time project but providing a project in an existing program that’s something sustainable and something that the community will take ownership of and have pride in and take care of.”
She sees public art as a way to open dialogues, foster development and create a sense of pride within groups and communities. “I have used mural art to engage communities, to start a conversation about who people are and what they envision for themselves and their environment,” Ringer explains of her work. “I sort of think of it as a tool for communities — and I have specifically worked with communities of color or women and girls — to really voice who they are to the world with a sense of freedom.”
Through Rome Mural CoLab, Ringer and Borromeo focus on community mural projects as well as commercial mural commissions. “Commercial murals, it’s a piece that a company or an entity has commissioned, and they have a specific theme in mind, and you design around that theme,” Borromeo explains. “On the artistically expressive side, we have seen a wall or a space and we have something personal that we want to artistically express on that. There’s no one really controlling what the narrative is or what it should look like. It’s on us to decide what we want to express, what we want to put forth as art.”
So far, the duo has created a “Seize the Day” mural at Gogo Shoes, hand-painted signage for Gogo Shoes, and a student engagement mural at Darlington celebrating “All for the Arts.” Jay Stephenson, owner of Gogo Shoes, was thrilled with the mural that Rome Mural CoLab created at his store. “Working with Ellie and Xaivier was an amazing experience,” he says. “They created a complete mural from conception to execution.
Every mural detail was well thought out and each step in the process was perfect. The mural has already proven to be an amazing representation of the beauty of Northwest GA for all of Rome, GA and our visitors to enjoy. So, come see Rome, Georgia!”
Aside from the sense of unity that these participatory and community-focused art pieces foster, Borromeo and Ringer hope that they will bring about more awareness of the arts in Rome. “We are really passionate about helping ignite more creativity and an appreciation for the arts in the community, and really making that something that younger people and kids can be passionate about and motivated toward,” Borromeo says.
Ringer adds, “Rome is a city where there’s lots of potential, so it’s really recognizing how much public art is successful and widely well-received elsewhere and seeing how we can use that potential in Rome where there is not a robust, well-executed program. I think about young people who may want something more and want to be seen — I think that’s another opportunity for the creative, artistic community to be seen, valued, and empowered.”
For more information on Rome Mural CoLab, visit their website, romemuralcolab.com, or follow them on social media @romemuralcolab. There are several ways to get involved in their work, from making a donation to filling out their public art survey. With this survey, they hope to show that Rome supports public art and open up more opportunities for murals in the area.
“We’re very excited to be collaborating with Harbin Clinic and the YMCA of Rome on an upcoming mural project focused around inclusivity, diversity, health and the community called the CARE mural,” Borromeo and Ringer say. “More details will be announced in April, so stay tuned! We also have a mural project with the Rome Floyd Chamber that is in the works during April and will be presented in early May.
The amount of support, enthusiasm and excitement for our work that we’re experiencing from the community has been so amazing and energizing and we can’t wait to see how these projects and future projects impact our community here in Rome.”