April 18, 2019

An inspiring canvas

Artist’s mural to celebrate Cortland history

Nick Graziano/contributing photographer

Cortland artist Crystal Lyon stands in front of the west end of the Cortland Corset Building at 75 E. Court St., holding a flier with the image of the mural she intends to paint on the building, shown below.

CORTLAND — You may look at parts of Cortland and see areas of empty land void of purpose.

Crystal Lyon sees an area for artistic sculptures.

You may see aging buildings with faded bricks. Lyon sees a canvas for alluring murals.

Lyon, a Cortland artist, sees the potential for lighting designs and public art being displayed all across the city. And she hopes to kick start that movement with a 30-foot-tall mural on the west end of the Cortland Corset Building at 75 E. Court St.

“I want to give back to the town I’m from and I want to be forward-thinking,” Lyon said. “I feel like Cortland is reinventing itself.”

The mural, of Lyon’s design, will honor the 150-year history of the Corset Building, which started as a wagon company and was once a corset factory. In the background will be a large wagon wheel and in the foreground will be a woman wearing a corset, goggles on her head and artwork on her arms. Lyon called the theme “steampunk” — an industrial historic look.

“It will be something outstanding on the building,” said Paul Muehlbauer, owner of the Corset Building.

For a little over a year, Lyon has been renting space in the Corset Building for her art studio, Living Illusion Studio. Muehlbauer said Lyon presented the idea of the mural to him about a month or two ago, and he was on board from the start.

“I’m totally pleased with what she did (as an idea for the mural),” he said.

Lyon won’t just paint the mural on the west end of the building, which faces Pendleton Street, she’ll restore that end of the building, too.

Faded bricks will be painted to match the rest. The 10 window frames will be restored and painted. And the “Cortland Corset Company” painted in a black box on that side of the building will remain, Lyon said. She’ll touch it up and the mural will not overlap it.

“It is a very challenging project,” Muehlbauer said.

Lyon has received a $2,500 grant through the CNY Arts Decentralized Grant for Individual Artists, but still needs to raise money for the effort. She is seeking $10,000 through a Go- FundMe.com page. At the moment, she has raised about $300.

Lyon said she hopes to raise at least $5,000 by the end of the June so she can start working on the logistics of the project and renting a lift.

At minimum, Lyon said she needs to raise at least $6,000, but it would make the project difficult because of labor and the time needed to complete it. She hopes to offset some of the funding by searching for sponsorships from businesses and organizations.

Her plan is to reveal the mural Sept. 29, accompanied by an art exhibition she would like to see students from the Cortland Junior-Senior High School involved in.

Being an alumna of Tompkins Cortland Community College and SUNY Cortland, Lyon said she hopes to have students from both schools help.

“I’m super excited,” said Melissa Guyette, owner of Instant Artist in the Corset Building. “So many people don’t know what is here.”

Lyon chose the west end of the building because it faces Pendleton Street and is the most visible part of the building.

“Hopefully, it will draw more people into Cortland, too,” Lyon said.

Lyon said she was recently involved in advocating for the Crown City Artworks Project, which was submitted to the state as part of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. It would give a platform for artists to create public art across the city. Her hope is the Corset Building mural is just the beginning of more art to come.

“I hope it can kick-start some cool stuff happening,” Lyon said.

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