Sustainability: Title Wall Painting with Nick Stull

Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager

Mar 08, 2023

Using a stencil, an artist paints an exhibition title on a bright yellow wall

In November 2021, Nick Stull left the preparatory team at the Wex to pursue his passion for painting full-time and help care for his young children. Since then, he’s been busy with mural commissions and shows at Sarah Gormley Gallery and other venues, including a two-person exhibition with Steve Ehret at the Mansfield Art Center opening March 19. But recently, Stull returned to the center to put his skills toward an effort to make exhibition design more eco-friendly.

In response to a growing, industry-wide focus on the environmental impact of art presentation, lead exhibition designer Dave Dickas has collaborated with curators and designers to bring more sustainable practices to the process of installing new shows in the galleries. One wasteful practice that’s being phased out is the use of vinyl lettering on title walls. It’s been replaced with hand-painted text executed by Stull. His first text painting work was on view in the fall exhibition Sharing Circles: Carol Newhouse and the WomanShare Collective, and he painted every exhibition title for the current shows.

An artist stands on a cherry picker looking down. A light brick wall is behind him, adorned with a large portrait mural

Stull working on a mural commission in Italian Village, image courtesy of the artist

“What led to that was thinking of sustainable ways to limit waste and use of plastic with the rotations of the exhibitions, and this seemed like a good area to look into, just because of all the plastic that's used with the vinyl lettering and graphics,” says Stull. “Especially since it's only going to be up for a few months.”

But then, I think the more we talked about it, the more we saw that you could do some interesting stuff with painting as well,” Stull adds. “It's more of an interesting experience than applying vinyl, so there might be some kind of multi faceted benefits to doing the hand-painted approach.”

Stull worked closely with Design Director Kendall Markley and her team, who worked with curators and the exhibiting artists to come up with an approved design. The painting was done over four days, with light projections acting as a template for Stull to follow when lighting conditions were amenable. Space and time limitations also required some use of stencils.

The timing of Stull’s work in relation to the installation of artworks allowed him to connect personally during the process with A.K. Burns. “She was very supportive and interested in what’s happening,” he says. Other artists showing at the Wex this season gave Stull and his work a digital thumbs up on social media, after he posted the final results on his personal accounts.

“I feel good with how they turned out, and I’m definitely interested in doing an iteration of this process moving forward,” Stull says. “I love the Wex and still being a part of it, whatever small way I can."

Stull adds that this work involves a learning process for all involved, as well as striking a balance between thoughtful environmental practices and eye-catching design.

“I enjoy trying to find a creative solution to this kind of thing because I think it's important, and it's kind of a a mental puzzle. You're trying to get the best of both worlds: being new and exciting and having different [designs] every time and abiding by the stance to be eco-friendly. I like that challenge.”

Top of page: Stull paints a title treatment for A.K. Burns: Of Space We Are..., photo: Melissa Starker

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