Street demonstration

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

On Saturday morning, 50 large panels will be set up in Dodge Park, ready to be transformed by artists wielding brushes and spray cans.

By design, Urban Scrawl II is intended to draw locals to the near west side so they can get acquainted with the Franklinton neighborhood and see its raw possibility. In practice, the event is a vibrant, all-day celebration of skateboarding, music and, most of all, the living act of making art, influenced by its urban environment.

A couple of years ago, some of the organizations interested in the development of the neighborhood felt the affordable property in Franklinton presented a perfect opportunity for young artists and creative businesses out-priced by the Short North.

They approached several artists, asking them to help bring new life to the area, offering new places and opportunities to show. Franklinton Arts District, or the FAD, was founded, headed by artist Nikos Fyodor Rutkowski.

The organizers of Urban Scrawl have been spreading the word about the event by taking its live art-making to other parts of the city. Rutkowski threw a couple of the four-foot-by-eight-foot panels on the back of a truck and took them to a recent Short North Gallery Hop to paint live. Several artists also worked on a multi-panel painting during the Independents' Day festival Downtown last weekend.

"Taking a more grassroots approach has really helped get the word out about the event," Rutowski said. "Things are going well for us. We have more people interested in joining in this year, more people volunteering."

A couple of this year's participating artists live and work in Franklinton. Tattoo artist David Seymour of Modern Body Art was born and raised in the Bottoms, and he wants to see more art in the neighborhood. After the event, he plans on staying active with the FAD.

"These days, they're cutting back on art in education, so I'll do anything to bring art back to the community," he said. "Too many people think that it's not important."

Urban Scrawl is setting down some semi-permanent roots before the event. Organizers are hanging previously completed pieces in the community. One mural will go up outside Tommy's Diner on Broad Street, while two more will flank the sides of a church at the corner of McDowell and Rich streets, cattycorner to Dodge Park.

Being outdoors, neither mural will last forever, but the hope is that as new pieces are created in future years, the paintings will either be replaced with fresh work or maintained.

New to the event are interactive art-making areas for kids and adults, including one community wall where anyone can pick up some paint and contribute. An arts and crafts show will allow attendees to purchase some work to take home, and a few other local vendors will also set up shop.

The number of panels to be painted has doubled from last year, with more than 25 artists working on them throughout the day. Several students from Columbus College of Art & Design are helping at the event. A number of bands are also slated to play, including Brainbow and Flotation Walls, as well as local DJs. There will also be a skateboard competition starting at 1 p.m., divided into different skill levels.

Franklinton development may be evolving slowly, especially in these unpredictable economic times, but hopes that it can become one of the city's new bohemian art centers are still high.

"I grew up in Olde Towne East - it takes a long time for things to get better," said Rutowski. "A year-and-a-half isn't a long enough time to expect a turnaround, but we intend to keep working at it."