In 2006, syndicated cartoonist Jef Mallett attended the Musselman as a participant in the Half and lent his talents to the race t-shirt and a strip mentioning Musselman.
In 2010, Jef returned to Geneva with bigger plans: complete the DoubleMussel (both the sprint and the Half) and draw a large mural on a public space downtown. Jef would need to be quick, Mother Nature would have to cooperate, and the City of Geneva would need to give its blessing for a permanent art fixture to grace Geneva's public space.
The process began. First, and symbolic of the partnership to come, Geneva's Business Improvement District (BID) and the Musselman Triathlon independently identified a suitable location for the mural: a city-owned concrete retaining wall just off Seneca and Linden Streets. With the help of a sketch from Jef, a digital rendering was generated and submitted to City Council, the BID's design committee, and the Planning Board. All granted approval.
City Councilor Jacqueline Augustine took the project under her wing and set about cleaning and priming the wall in advance of Musselman weekend (and Jef's arrival). Community Service workers pressure-washed the wall and Councilor Augustine stood beneath a blast-furnace sun applying primer.
Three sections of the retaining wall were primed: one for Jef's design, one to showcase Team Mussel, and one to hold the signatures of Musselman participants. Three panels remain unpainted - perhaps for Musselmen and women of the future.
Jef arrived and spent Friday sketching his design: the main character from his cartoon Frazz immersed in the three displines of triathlon. He free-handed the design using chalk and black paint, first standing on a section of scaffolding and later employing a bucket truck graciously lent to the project by NYSEG. By evening, and with the first drops of rain beginning to fall, the gigantic sketch was complete.
On Saturday afternoon, under a bright sun, athletes in the seventh annual Musselman came to add color. Jef had included numbers to denote the proper coloring, a massive paint-by-number, and participants found their color according to the last digit in their race number.
Simultaneously, members of Team Mussel added their "signatures" to the small first section, and participants in the weekend's triathlons added their names to the second. Come nightfall the wall was full and Geneva's downtown had a shiny new art installation.
By Sunday the sketch was complete and triathletes in the Half passed the mural three miles from the finish line. Jef, along with hundreds of fellow painters, was one of the proud finishers.
More pictures are here.
Jef's description of the process can be found on his blog here and in his article for USAT's Triathlon Life here.
Photos by Jan Regan Photography.