Arts preview: Spirit animals temporarily take over PINS

Jim Fischer

One of Blake Compton's interview questions for prospective Compton Construction employees is the industry standard "What is your spirit animal?"

OK, maybe it's not industry standard, but Compton does ask and also keeps track of the answers provided by those who end up working for him. And as his company works on the to-open-later-this-summer PINS (the 16-Bit Bar & Arcade companion to feature pinball, duckpin bowling, bocce and shuffleboard) at 4th and Long streets Downtown, Compton decided it would be interesting to incorporate the spirit animals via street art.

To this end, he partnered with painter/muralist Mandi Caskey, who created large images of animals combined with a physical characteristic or personality trait of each employee working on the site. The images can be seen most obviously on wood panels in what will eventually become the windows at PINS.

"In construction, we only have these buildings for a certain time," Compton said, comparing this fleeting nature with that of street art, itself most often temporary. "There is a transitional period in construction that provides an opportunity to do art. This is a creative way to celebrate street art and connect it to our company in a unique and peculiar way."

Caskey and Compton met when the former was creating a mural at Land-Grant Brewing Company. They struck up a friendship and discussed working together on a project in the future. Presented with the spirit animal idea, Caskey took to it immediately.

"As a street artist, it was first a chance to do work that's legal," Caskey said, only half joking.

After interviewing Compton employees and shooting some photographs, Caskey set to making the images of a buffalo, a fox, a honey badger and more (Compton anticipates as many as 12 pieces of spirit animal art at the PINS site). The buffalo, for example, sports the same tattoos and gauged ears as the employee it represents.

"This is a new way of thinking about public art," said Caskey, a former CCAD student who's been doing mural art in Columbus for about three years.

Compton said the 4-feet-by-4-feet pieces have an uncertain future. He'd like to think he could move them from project to project, following their representative workers, but it's street art, and it's construction, and he can't be certain the pieces will be able to be preserved. If the pieces themselves can't be moved, he hopes to continue the Spirit Animal Project with new works at other sites.