Biggest Urban Scrawl yet points to bright future

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From the August 21, 2014 edition

Now in its eighth year, Urban Scrawl has become Franklinton’s signature art event, and this year promises to be the biggest yet. The live creation of murals is still the highlight, but this year other art-related events at 400 West Rich, which hosts the two-day festival, will enhance the experience. (And that’s not including the live music performances scheduled both Saturday and Sunday).

New this year is a pop-up exhibition (with a reception Friday evening) and Saturday’s Open Studios — an open house-style walkthrough to meet artists, explore individual studios and the 400 West Rich building as a whole. The goal? To showcase the 120 artists working in the Franklinton collective, many of whom will be creating the murals during Urban Scrawl.

“We’ve been trying to do a lot more since we’ve grown so much. So this is another opportunity for people to share what they do,” Linda Diec, 400 West Rich leasing and outreach manager said. at the Franklinton artist space. “It’s that whole mentality of everybody coming together to do more. By having it organized and everyone coming together for a big event, we know that’s a tool to create a bigger impact.”

Angela Jann, a programming coordinator for 400 West Rich, reiterated the natural connection between Urban Scrawl and the Open Studios event.

“The people interested in Urban Scrawl are going to be interested in this place,” Jann said. “Instead of having two different events, let’s just bring it all together.”

The expansion of art offerings at this year’s Urban Scrawl ties back to the festival’s original mission when it began in 2006. Then, Franklinton was in its infancy as an arts hub in Columbus, mainly because efforts by the Franklinton Arts District, a group working to revitalize the downtown-adjacent district through art, were just getting off the ground. Now, many within the arts community are aware of Franklinton’s transformation, but outreach needs to continue.

“Back then, Franklinton was even unknown to me,” said Urban Scrawl chair Lauren Wilson, who’s attended or volunteered every year before supervising the last three. “That was the purpose of Urban Scrawl — to try to bring new life into this neighborhood through art and get people across the river and see what’s going on over here. But there are still definitely parts of Columbus that aren’t familiar with Franklinton. Maybe they’re starting to hear about it more, but they still haven’t come over to see what it’s about.”

Urban Scrawl, especially this year, offers attendees an opportunity to take in the local art scene, and specifically 400 West Rich. There’s the art-in-action of mural creation by 40 artists outside on Saturday and Sunday, and for Open Studios (12-5 p.m. Saturday), the labyrinth-like halls of 400 will be ripe for exploration as artists showcase works and interact with visitors in their personal spaces. Navigating the corridors of 400 will be easier with maps pinpointing the various studios and tours led by Diec, Jann and volunteers.

Wilson suggested a good plan for experiencing all of the activity at Urban Scrawl this year is to get there early, take a tour of 400 and head back outside to see how the panels have progressed.

“I always tell people if you haven’t been there early, come right around noon … because it’s so fascinating to watch these 40 artists at their panels, and how they all work differently,” Wilson said. “Some people come with everything mapped out on a grid — exactly what they’re going to do with all the supplies. Others come in with zero pre-plan at all, work with whatever paint is there and go where the mood of the day takes them.”

While Urban Scrawl is certainly an important event for local artists, 400 West Rich residents, Franklinton and the arts community as a whole, the organizers want it to serve as a starting point for further development of arts in the neighborhood.

“The big goal for this year is launching a bigger fundraiser, [similar to] ones we’ve done before,” Wilson said. “We’re going to auction off some past [mural] panels and the ones from this year [next April]. The intent is putting together a neighborhood arts-grant program [with] Urban Scrawl being the fun event where art gets created, and then it will roll over into this auction yearly … and work on this grant program for artists who live here, or artists outside who want to do something in Franklinton, to revitalize or beautify the neighborhood.”

Diec also said there’s a need for more programming at 400 West Rich, and this weekend could serve as a model. But it’s the creative resourcefulness of the artists she’s anticipating for the future.

“It’s kind of crazy because this building is a venue and all the artists inside of it make up what it is,” Diec said. “There are so many people inspired by what this place is, just this shell that’s kind of like a playland. I feel so good about this place because if you have any sort of cockamamie idea, you probably could get it all done here, with the people, their knowledge and their contacts.”

Photos by Meghan Ralston