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Art: The best way to build community

More than the Cookies

Via sketching her current mural behind Ooy’s Deli (Photo by Heaven Cuevas/Ithaca Week)

Olivia, also know as Via Carpenter is a recent Ithaca College graduate in the Class of 2022. She is most known for being the CEO and head baker of Via’s Cookies, but what is lesser known about her is that she is also a local black artist. Via is currently working on a mural in downtown Ithaca behind Ooy’s Deli, along with some other art related projects.

Via started painting when she was a child and realized she was talented at a very young age. However, she said she was actually too impatient to paint for most of her life. The true beginning of Via’s journey with art began when she was staying in a cabin in the mountains of Maine and had the desire to paint. While painting that day, Via had an epiphany and realized:

“If you don’t like what it looks like then just keep going,” Via said.

Via and her sister Ana outside of the mural they painted at The Gallery (Photos by Casey Martin for Ithaca Voice
Via and Ana painting at the gallery. (Photos by Casey Martin for Ithaca Voice)



Via’s Mural that she painted at Southside Community Center. (Photos by Via Carpenter)
Another angle of Via’s mural at Southside Community Center. (Photos by Via Carpenter)



Via Carpenter behind Ooy’s Deli in Downtown Ithaca. (Photo By Heaven Cuevas/Ithaca Week)

The mural at Ooy’s Deli

Via is currently working on a “passion project” she says. Via explained that she approached the owners of Ooy’s Deli and asked them if she could paint anything she wanted, and they agreed.

The former mural behind Ooy’s Deli was unfinished before Via started hers, so the owners were eager to get fresh artwork. Via doesn’t usually do murals for free but since she approached them, she decided that she wouldn’t charge anything.

Via said the passion project is inspired by Italian statues because there will be a new Italian-inspired restaurant that will be near the Deli soon. Via said that she plans to paint an Italian man holding a plate of spaghetti, sitting on top of a lion.

Why Ithaca?

Via said since she came to Ithaca for college and started her cookie business, she got to know all of the local business owners. She had been involved in the Ithaca community since her first year at IC while working at the Marriott hotel downtown. She said the local business community is “bussin’”, because there is a strong sense of community in Ithaca.

“Ithaca is a beautiful place and it’s been made even more beautiful by all the art from various artists from inside and outside of Ithaca,” Via said.

Via said she has never seen a town with as much art as Ithaca and sometimes when she sees a lack of art in other cities, she thinks they need to “do better”.

What’s Next?

The next mural she’s working on is for North Ferry Hats, and it will be themed around reproductive rights, and it’ll be on one of the walls inside the store.

Via said her favorite project that she’s ever worked on was a painting she titled “The shackles of masculinity”. It took her 3 days to paint, and she painted every day for 10 hours straight, with no breaks.

“The Shackles of Masculinity” (Photo by Via Carpenter)

Via said that she is also inspired by the work of her friend and fellow artist Lauren Reid. Reid spoke about Via’s dedication to her business and artwork.

“She is one of the best storytellers I know, so when I see her tie her talents of writing and paintings together I’m amazed every time,” Reid said. “I love her use of color and sense of self that she pushes in every image she creates whether it is a drawing, painting, or a mural. She not only inspires me in her dedication to create a motivating narrative from her truths but also inspires me with her drive in her cookie business.”

Caleb Thomas, organizer of local art group Ithaca Murals also spoke about Via’s artwork.

“Olivia Carpenter is an incredible cookie artist and fun muralist,” Thomas said. “I hope there are many more murals in their future. If you’re looking for more color in your life, contact Olivia Carpenter to have them paint a mural on your garage, home, shed, fence, school, or workplace!”


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