Kent native’s mural captures history, nostalgia


Maya Culley’s latest mural on Burbick Ave. in downtown.

Sylvia Lorson

Kent native Maya Culley, 19, painted the mural that’s now on the walls of the alley between Skullz Salon and Woodsy’s Music in downtown Kent.

Culley’s sister Aliyah, 18, suggested that she enter the Burbick Way Public Art Project, a Main Street Kent contest for local artists interested in painting a mural downtown, after she heard about it while in class.

“My whole family is artistic,” Culley said. “My dad is an art teacher, my grandfather was an art teacher, too. My dad’s whole side of the family is super artistic.”

After getting her idea approved by the City of Kent’s architectural review board, buying paints and prepping the wall, Culley started painting the mural at the beginning of the summer. It took her a month to complete it.

On one wall of the alley, there was already a mural of a train coming into the station downtown, done by Eagle Scout Henry Van’t Hooft in 2016. Culley’s mural works with the existing mural to educate people about Marvin Kent.

Culley said Kent was the businessman who “sparked life into the city,” which is why he is included near the mural of the train.

Culley’s mural also features a large milkweed plant growing over one of the doors and colorful geometric shapes cover both doors. The milkweed plant was nostalgic for Culley, she said she remembered learning about how Monarch butterflies eat milkweed plants in kindergarten.

Heather Malarcik, the executive director of Main Street Kent’s Marketing Committee said in an email that Culley’s ideas stood out as being particularly thoughtful with regard to the location of the mural, and the City of Kent in general.

“Maya was the most thoughtful to the fact that we already had a mural in the alley,” Malarcik said. “[She was] the most inclusive of concepts to things she loves about the community of Kent.”

Main Street Kent will be installing an artist statement sometime soon to allow Culley explain the details of her mural to people that may not understand right away.

Working on a mural in her hometown is something Culley said she’s really happy about.

“[It feels] amazing. So cool. I love public art and it’s so cool to leave something in my hometown,” Culley said.

Culley does hope to do more murals in the future. She said that she had a few “loose offers” to do more murals in the future.

As a freshman at Kent State University Twinsburg Regional Academic Center, Culley’s major is undecided. She is considering art or photography.

While proud of herself, Culley said she was also thankful for those that helped her during the process.

“I would like to add a thank you to everyone that helped,” she said. “I had a lot of help from everyone.”

Sylvia Lorson covers art and architecture. Contact her at [email protected].