Painting joy: Derek Brennan's latest mural project brightens up downtown apartment building

What is it: Sandusky native Derek Brennan recently completed a four-story mural on an apartment building at the corner of East Washington and Hancock streets in downtown Sandusky.

Meet the artist: Brennan, who grew up in Sandusky, has created multiple murals in the area, including for the Oak Harbor Library, the Marketplace at the Cooke, and Noble Axes. He also created the “Live Green” mural on the building that houses A & B Hobbies & Cycles. Brennan is also responsible for murals in the Cleveland area, including creations for MetroHealth, Cleveland State University, Lorain County Community College, the Cleveland Public Auditorium, and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

The mural took about two weeks to complete.

“I have been creating for as long as I can remember,” Brennan says. “My dad worked as a printer when I was young and he would bring back huge stacks and pads of paper. My parents really fueled my love for art at an early age and when I was a junior in high school I worked at Cedar Point doing caricatures. Ever since then, I’ve been making a living creating in one way or another.”

Brennan paints a flower as part of the nature-themed mural. (Photo/Courtesy of Derek Brennan)Why this building: Brennan got involved in the project after taking on some interior mural projects for the building’s owner.

“I kept looking at the outside of the building thinking of ways I could improve the building,” Brennan says. “I asked the owner, Mimi Chicotel, if she would ever consider it and she was so responsive to the idea.I knew the city had an artist-led grant program for large-scale public art projects and I thought this would be a great way to put my mark on a building downtown.” 

Mimi Chicotel, who has owned the building since July 2021 with her husband, Alan Chicotel, loved Brennan's ideas to brighten up the outside of the building, which is a part of the national historical registry. Since the building is already painted, Mimi Chicotel says, the mural will not impact the historical value of the building.

"We hope this mural, the biggest one in Sandusky and the only one on a purely residential building, will add to the overall beauty and liveliness of downtown Sandusky," Mimi Chicotel says.  

Why this design: Brennan chose the design after being inspired by the renaissance of downtown.

“I had grown up in Sandusky and didn’t spend much time downtown as a kid,” he says. “The last few years I’ve seen it really grow and blossom, which is something I wanted to mirror in this mural. I just wanted to see life on this wall. Arin Blair [Sandusky’s chief planner] is a bird enthusiast and had mentioned how Erie County is a big stop for Warbler migration. So I really thought it would be a beautiful addition to this wild floral idea I had.”

Why is it important: Brennan hopes his art will bring joy and inspiration to those who view it.

“I think it’s important for people to have color in their lives and it can just be a happy unexpected moment in someone’s day to stumble across this mural,” he says. “I love creating and hope that it can inspire a kid to pursue art as a career. I also love the idea of more murals in Sandusky so maybe this can help push that in the right direction and get more people onboard. I think of buildings as canvases now and murals can really transform a neighborhood and bring joy to people.”