Explore Columbus Murals, the Public's Museum

Kristen Schmidt

We know "Short North Gothic" by sight and name. But what about those dozens of murals that dot less prominent walls in less prominent places? Together, they make a museum of art accessible at any time, to anyone. Let's find a few together.

Artists: Giovanni "Gio" Santiago and Eric "Ghino" Hernandez of Blank Walls R Gross

Action for Children, whose mission is to make good child care available to people in and around Columbus, had grant money to spend on an outdoor event in 2014. Someone suggested a mural. And at Franklinton Cycle Works, members were thinking how nice a mural would look on the long side-street side of their building.

"We made that connection and came up with a concept," says Jessica Woodruff, who manages a program for mothers at Action for Children. "We knew the artist from Urban Scrawl and approached him to see if he'd be interested. We collaborated for the concept 'Cycle of Parenting.' Just like bicycling is something you can do for life, parenting is something you do throughout your life."

When it came time to paint the image, which depicts children and their parents having a blast on wheels, in spring 2014, Action for Children called in the troops. The project was a group effort, with clients and friends of the organization stopping by to do what they could. Curious neighborhood residents helped, too.

"I happened to notice a woman taking some pictures. I said, 'If you're from the community, come over and paint,' " says Glenn Harris, who directs the Father Factor program. The woman returned with a young lady in a wheelchair. She was the inspiration for the artists to include a girl in a wheelchair-blasting gleefully into space, powered by rocket boosters-on the far right side of the mural.

Artist: Michael Halliday

David Royer grew up with art-his father was a watercolor artist, and he was drawn to art history classes in college. So it seemed natural to him that a mural could convey a complicated message: Well-being and hope await those who find help for mental illness or addiction. "One of the great things about Columbus is this idea that public art is an important quality and asset to our life," says Royer, CEO of the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County, aka ADAMH. This mural on East Main Street, on a building that houses ADAMH services, was the first of three-so far-murals around Columbus backed by ADAMH. It was unveiled in August 2013.

"It's not just about painting the mural," Royer says. "It's about engaging the community to talk about what's important to them, how they envision communicating concepts of health and well-being. We have a facilitated process (with Eliza Ho, a designer and co-owner of Dinin' Hall) so that the community can define the art and embrace it."

While artist Michael Halliday, himself in recovery, created the vision, many other hands helped bring it into reality, filling in the mural using a large-scale paint-by-numbers method. The result is a happy, hopeful image of a sky overlaid with clusters of young people, their smiles beaming out at the viewer.

"Art speaks to us individually and collectively, and it inspires us to see things through a different lens. It divorces us from preconceived notions," Royer says.

Artist: Aminah Robinson, copied with her permission by CCAD students led by artist Kristine Schramer

Former Columbus College of Art and Design president Denny Griffith is credited with seeing not a long, blank garage wall but a canvas behind the State Auto Insurance building on Broad Street. The choice of image also seemed intuitive: Aminah Robinson's long fabric, thread and buttons piece "A Street Called Home," which depicts neighborhood life in nearby Poindexter Village, where Robinson grew up. "Everyone thought this was the perfect thing-it followed the dimensions of the building," says Columbus Museum of Art adjunct curator Carole Genshaft. "I went to Aminah and asked if we could do it, and she was delighted."

Artist Kristine Schramer, then an instructor at CCAD, led the effort to transform Robinson's three-dimensional piece into a vibrant two-dimensional mural. (Note how shading was used to make buttons along the bottom of the painting appear to pop off the wall.) "It's so colorful and it reflects the street, and that's what Aminah's all about," Genshaft says. "It has all that excitement and feeling that a lot of these organizations and institutions in the Discovery District reflect."

Though the mural is on State Auto property, it has the spirit of being shared by State Auto, CCAD and the art museum. Dial the phone number posted next to the mural to hear the story of the mural's creation, recorded by Schramer. "It was just meant to happen," Genshaft says. "It was really a good project, and we all enjoyed watching it happen."

A DIY Art Walk

The city has created self-guided art walks for several neighborhoods, including Franklinton, the Discovery District and the Short North. For each walk, explorers can download a map with addresses and thumbnail photos of each piece to look for. Art isn't limited to murals, though you'll find plenty of unfamiliar ones. Architecture, sculpture and even plant life are included on these journeys.

History with a Side of Art

For something a bit more structured and story-based, embark on one of Columbus Landmarks Foundation's 90-minute CityWalks guided tours. These docent-led tours start at Broad and High streets and introduce walkers to buildings and public art within the context of history. Last we checked, tickets were on sale through