This is a community announcement from the Tompkins Trust Company. It was not written by the Ithaca Voice. To submit community announcements, please send them to Matt Butler at

Twelve years ago, as a member of the City of Ithaca’s Public Art Commission, Caleb Thomas spearheaded a contest that led to the creation of the Underground Railroad mural on Green Street. That effort led to more – much more – public art coming to downtown Ithaca.

Today, Ithaca Murals, organized by Thomas, has taken up the mantle for public art projects, and the city continues to add to its murals collection. In 2009, there were about 15 murals in Ithaca, now there are over 200 with plans for more to come.

Our Community Hero of the Month, Caleb Thomas, is the guiding force behind this public art movement. The Tompkins Chamber, in partnership with the Tompkins Trust Company, would like to recognize Caleb for his work envisioning canvases for beautiful and inspiring activist art in everyday places and spaces.

Jennifer Tavares, President of the Tompkins Chamber, noted the impact Thomas has made in the community through his work.

“What Caleb Thomas has accomplished over several years through Ithaca Murals has brought creativity, art, beauty, a sense of place – and also awareness of the human condition and historic injustices – to our community,” said Tavares. “Caleb’s work has had a huge impact on this community, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for his gift of time and talent.” 

Tompkins Trust Company President and CEO Greg Hartz echoed Tavares’s sentiments.

“Tompkins Trust Company is pleased to recognize Caleb Thomas for his important contributions bringing art that works to shift the cultural consciousness towards diversity, inclusion and justice to the greater Ithaca community,” Hartz said.

Thomas is quick to say he is not the director of Ithaca Murals, but an assistant to the artists who create the art, helping them deal with the paperwork and permissions that are needed. He also noted that each project is a small success that builds upon each other to create a big impact, and that it’s important for people to see that small successes can add up to a big impact.

“Watching the transformation and team building, and the movement the murals have created” Thomas said of why he works to bring public art to Ithaca. “It’s very meaningful to me, the support everyday Ithacans have to recreate our cityscape, and passersby get to see murals created by indigenous artists, Asian artists, Muslim artists, Black artists.”

There are also mural projects planned for several of Ithaca’s elementary schools, and Thomas sees a future of murals on residential homes as well. He said there are currently 16 murals on homes around the city already and thinks that will catch on more and more.

“There are so many more canvases in Ithaca for us to transform,” Thomas said. “Before the Public Art Commission did the electrical boxes (when the 21 Boxes project saw artists paint the boxes with their own creation), it was taken for granted that those electrical boxes were blank. I think someday houses will be the same way, and that murals on houses will be a more common mainstream thing.”

In addition to more public art, an Ithaca Murals app is under development that Thomas said will provide a map of where the murals are located, information about the art, as well as the potential gamification of the experience.

Ithaca Murals does pay artists a stipend for their time, as well as for supplies needed to create the art beautifying our community. Funding for that and the support of Ithaca Murals efforts comes through donations. Find more information about ways to donate at