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Olean mural project gets big boost


$20,000 in CRCF grants gives boost to Heart of Olean Mural project

Representatives from CRCF, the Tri-County Arts Council and mural artists and project managers gather at the site of the Heart of Olean Mural Project. From left to right: Mikel Wintermantel, former Tri-County Arts Council Executive Director, Wendy Brand, CRCF board member and grant allocations committee member, Karen Niemic Buchheit, CRCF Executive Director, Ella McCausland, an artist and project manager from Saligman’s studio and Alex Derwick, an Olean native mural artist.

 The Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation recently made two grants, together totaling $20,000, to the Heart of Olean Mural Project, bringing the project closer to reaching its goal of fully funding a $200,000 public arts project, led by world-renowned mural artist and Olean native Meg Saligman.

The mural will span all four walls of the Library and Liberal Arts Center on the Jamestown Community College Cattaraugus County Campus in downtown Olean.

The project is a labor of love and an ode to the hometown of the artist, Saligman.

Saligman had promised her father, Olean attorney Don Fish, that she would create a painting that would hang above the mantle of his home. He passed away in March of 2021 before that promise could be fulfilled.

Instead that painting will take the form of the largest public arts project that the City of Olean has seen, visible to all that visit the city’s downtown area.

“The 10,000 square feet, four-sided mural will echo the past, present, and future of our region and community,” said Paula Bernstein, Tri-County Arts Council executive director. “My hometown sure looks a lot more colorful these days than when I was growing up and the Heart of Olean mural is only the first of many public arts projects from the Tri County Arts Council.”

Saligman, who now lives in Philadelphia (PA), has over 30 years of experience in creating and maintaining large-scale murals. In that time she has designed and painted four of the largest murals in the United States, along with murals in Mexico and Tanzania, said Mikel Wintermantel, former Tri-County Arts Council executive director.

This mural will feature elements inspired by the past, present and the imagined future of the Olean area. The design is inspired by the poem “The Circus in the Sun,” written by Robert Lax, who spent a great deal of his time in the area.

The hope for the Tri-County Arts Council, who is serving as the fiscal sponsor for the mural’s public support, is that the mural will not only honor the community, but will become an essential part of it.

“Art murals are an opportunity to tell the community’s story, engage citizens, increase appreciation for arts and artists, increase foot traffic and tourism, and make space attractive,” said Wintermantel. “The Heart of Olean Mural Project will be a catalyst for future murals in the City of Olean to draw attention to public-art.”

Even in its creation, the mural is doing exactly that.

Six local (or locally-rooted) artists are currently employed to work on the mural project.

The Tri-County Arts Council has been partnering with area businesses to host “painting days,” which allow members of the community to put their own touch on the mural by painting a mural cloth that will then be transferred onto the mural’s wall to be painted.

For CRCF, the decision to provide $20,000 in support for the project was rooted in the shared belief that the project will enhance and inspire not only Olean’s art community, but the community as a whole.

“This is the kind of public arts project that happens in major cities,” said CRCF Executive Director Karen Niemic Buchheit. “This is the type of project that leaves a lasting legacy that literally anyone can see. To have a world-renowned artist lead this type of project in Olean is an amazing thing, and we are so proud to be able to be a mural partner and support this.”

The two grants of $10,000 each were unanimously approved by CRCF’s board of directors, she added. One grant was approved from the Visual Arts Alliance Fund. The other was made from the Beautification Fund for the Olean Community, which was originally established by Mildred Milliman.

Both grants are the largest ever approved from the respective funds, Buchheit said.

The project is expected to be completed in October of this year.

“We cannot wait to see the finished work,” Buchheit added. “We believe, just as the arts council and all of the donors who have supported this project do, that this is more than art project – that it is a community building project.”

Donations can be made to any of these funds at CRCF, 301 North Union St., Suite 203 or online at

The Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation is the area’s supportive, responsive and trusted community foundation. Established in 1994, CRCF is growing good by connecting donors to the causes they care about most in the region. Grants from the foundation support many areas, including education, scholarships, health care, the arts, community development, human service, and youth development. To learn more, call (716) 301-CRCF (2723), email, or visit online at CRCF is also on Facebook ( and Twitter (@CattFoundation).

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