Art for Auburn's next project will find it revisiting one of its first.

The nonprofit that birthed the Community Mosaic Project is inviting the city's residents to pick up a brush and help paint the concrete abutments outside Auburn Public Theater on Exchange Street Saturday.

The Community Painting Party will also feature live music by indie rockers Molto Bene! and Weedsport student collective Have You Heard??, as well as sheet pizzas donated by Angelo's — the site of the project's first mosaic in 2010.

Like the west wall of Angelo's, the abutments on Exchange Street were also adorned with mirror and tile that summer.

However, unlike Angelo's and subsequent mosaics on the Edward T. Boyle Center and The Citizen, the ones on Exchange Street weren't framed — leaving them vulnerable to the scuffing of shoes, the prying of mischievous fingers or, as was the case this past winter, several feet of snow.

As a result, project manager Jesse Kline said, the mosaics' bonding agents weakened, their pieces fell out and the Exchange Street area looked a little less sparkly than it did in 2010.

Kline didn't anticipate the pace of the artwork's deterioration, she said Wednesday.

"I had no idea how long it'd last," she said. "It's not a science, it's art."

After several summers of repairing the mosaic with technical artist David Tobin, Kline looked to replace the mirror and tile with a more sustainable medium: paint. 

The mosaic's original motifs of Owasco Lake and dragonflies, conceived by Kline and artist Janie Darovskikh, were reworked into new mural designs by artists Jessie Reich and Blake Chamberlain. Kline also took the opportunity to add some members of Auburn's divisive crow population to the mix.

To lend depth to the composition, she consulted Tony Clubine, who painted the murals on The Liberty Store and Meyer Bookbinding. And to really make it pop, she and the artists worked fluorescent paint into their plans — and, Kline hopes, the installation of black lights to illuminate it.

Saturday, the recently stripped and primered concrete surfaces will have the new designs sketched on them to guide volunteer painters. The paint will also be premixed, Kline said.

She and her team of artists will then layer over the volunteers' work to finish it. Depending on the weather, she expects the mural to be completed within a week, and as early as Sunday.

Art for Auburn's past public installations have drawn as many as 75 volunteers, Kline said. She's also found support from the New York State Council on the Arts in the form of a grant, and Real Deals in the form of 100 free paintbrushes. 

The project's payoff, Kline said, will be the first impression the rejuvenated Exchange Street area makes on new visitors to Auburn seeing a show at Auburn Public Theater or eating at Mesa Grande Taqueria. The area is also a part of the new Auburn Public Art Trail, along with the nearby "Wheel to Reel" sculpture by Audrey Iwanicki.

The sight of the new mural may be even more gratifying to the people who help paint it, Kline said.

"Anyone who signs up has ownership over what we create. It's one thing to walk by and say, 'That's a pretty mural.' It's another to say, 'See this little tree or this crow? I did that,'" she said. "It's exciting to see people come together to make Auburn more beautiful."

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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