Bringing color to your Columbus, no matter where "your Columbus" might be found, is muralist and street artist Mandi Caskey's mission.
"I look around [the city] and I see a bunch of blank walls, clear and pristine, and I just want to throw paint on them," Caskey said.
While Caskey might interchange the roles of contemporary muralist and street artist when referring to herself, she made it clear it's more about the community than the terminology.
"Maybe these artists are people who like to go out and 'vandalize,' but they also bring color and culture and make the environment feel like it's lived in," she said.
Caskey figures Columbus could stand to look more "lived in." Throughout the course of our conversation, she listed a handful of other cities, from Los Angeles and Atlanta to neighboring Cincinnati, that have formal processes for matching artists with city walls. She'd like to spearhead a similar program here.
"I want to start doing more public murals. Not just me but having artists do them. But Columbus doesn't know how," she said. A clear plan that bridges the art, business and public sectors, such as ArtWorks Cincinnati, Caskey said, is badly needed. She has had conversations with local art and community organizer Andrew Dodson on just how this might be accomplished.
"It's a massive task," Dodson said of Caskey's efforts to tackle the mural situation in a grassroots manner.
Caskey learned about the legalities of making public art when she was contracted to create a 26-foot mural on the observation deck at the top of the Rhodes State Office Tower, a project on which she is currently working and expects to complete later this year.
The view from her Rhodes Tower workspace has made wading through all the legal terminology worth it. "It's definitely inspiring," Caskey said. "When I get hung up on something - on colors or on how things look from afar - I just look out on the city."
Of course, surveying the city from on high also reveals many of those blank walls. Caskey wants street art to be a part of that skyline.
Street art also restored Caskey's passion for making art a few years back. She gravitated to art as a high school student in Lima, Ohio, inspired by her creative grandmother and high school art teacher. After winning top awards in ArtSpace/Lima shows, Caskey decided to attend CCAD.
"In college I was extremely serious," she said. She wanted to work hard at her art, not soak up the atmosphere of college life. But at the end of her sophomore year, feeling like she was spinning her wheels, she dropped out.
"Nothing against CCAD, but it turned into something I wasn't interested in any more," she said. "So I said, 'Fuck it. I don't care.' I felt like any time I picked up a brush I wanted to vomit."
After fighting to get to CCAD, Caskey was in crisis mode until she began to do street art with her then-boyfriend, sneaking around and filling up blank spaces with color.
"It was freeing. There's no structure, no perfection," she said. "Even if it's cleaned up or goes away an hour from now, creating it was the purpose. That was the art.
"You place this gem in an environment, and it affects the people who come across it. That's the purpose."