Arts preview: Short North murals are back as “Viewpoints”

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From the February 27, 2014 edition

The Short North has revived its public art mural series featuring large-scale works from local artists, and it’s easy to see “why.”

“We did [the mural project] in 2012 and they were only supposed to stay up a few months. We tested it out to see how long they would last, and they lasted for well over a year,” said Short North Alliance Executive Director Betsy Pandora. “So we took them down in 2013, and the outcry was obvious: ‘Why are these gone? They’re so great.’”

The mural project, “Viewpoints: Murals by Young Professional Working Artists,” builds upon the “10x10x10 Mural Series” that was installed in the Short North from August 2012 to September 2013. The original concept called for 10 murals, 10 galleries and 10 openings. This time 11 murals have been installed, all by young professional artists under 40, and four are contributed by galleries outside the district.

The Short North is Columbus’ hub for art, and that shouldn’t be overlooked. But our city’s art scene expands to nearly every corner, and applauding that was an intentional and major aspect.

“We certainly view ourselves as a cultural hub. We have this amazing foot traffic. We are uniquely and beautifully positioned between the major employment center Downtown and Ohio State University,” Pandora said. “And we’re so proud of how the arts in Columbus have grown … and we’re proud of the role [the Short North] probably helped to play in that.”

Therefore, non-Short North art institutions sponsored murals, including the Wexner Center for the Arts, Open Door Gallery in Grandview, Art Access Gallery in Bexley and the Columbus Museum of Art. These murals are specifically positioned, directionally related to the institution within the Short North, as gateways.

The idea is for these murals to act as conversation pieces for the city; start thinking (and discussing) the local art scene as a prevalent and thriving aspect of local culture.

“It is a gateway project,” Pandora said. “They’re provocative and thought-provoking … [and] there will be more opportunities to do more substantial and larger pieces that get to the heart of what public art can do, which is challenge and create a much bigger conversation and help us celebrate who we are as a community.”

While celebrating the arts community as a whole is integral, this is still Short North-specific, since the neighborhood houses the largest concentration of independently owned galleries, and is home to copious works of public art and outdoor murals.

Hence, monthly programming, including artist talks, guided tours and more, will begin in (hopefully sunny) springtime to engage audiences in the district and its art. Although, the conversation actually begins this weekend with a number of Short North galleries holding artist receptions for the mural project Friday evening. See shortnorth.org for more details on programming events.