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Scrawl for All: Live Art in Franklinton

For roughly eight years some of the best large-scale pieces of art produced in Columbus sat stacked in a developing warehouse, far from public view or purchase. Now, in its 11th year, the artists of Urban Scrawl are producing pieces in Franklinton and for Franklinton. What started in 2006 as a small event at Dodge [...]
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For roughly eight years some of the best large-scale pieces of art produced in Columbus sat stacked in a developing warehouse, far from public view or purchase.

Now, in its 11th year, the artists of Urban Scrawl are producing pieces in Franklinton and for Franklinton.

What started in 2006 as a small event at Dodge Park–artists signing up to paint large canvasses with anything of their choosing–has now become massive fundraiser. This past May, the Franklinton Arts District auctioned off $30,000 worth of the panels, funds that will fuel the George Bellows grant program, which provides support for artists in the burgeoning neighborhood.

This month, FAD president Adam Herman sat down with (614) to paint the project with a broader brush.

We’ve come a long way from the early days of Urban Scrawl. What really catalyzed, turning the event into what it’s become in the 11th year?

Every year there are more and more artists who want to participate. In fact, last year we had more than double the number of artists apply to participate than we could accommodate due to space limitations. A big reason Urban Scrawl has remained so popular after 10 straight years of growth is that it is still an effort built largely by and for artists and their fans. People appreciate the collaborative, do-it-yourself atmosphere that permeates Urban Scrawl; it allows them to feel like they’re a part of something unique, as well as something bigger than themselves. It’s not an overproduced, sponsor-driven, commercial activity—it’s an authentic expression of public art in its purest form. It’s still a scrappy little street art festival that runs on sweat equity and passion.

What were a few of your biggest takeaways from this year’s auction? Mayor Mike seemed to enjoy being the master of ceremonies…

This year’s Art for Franklinton auction was our biggest and most successful yet. At the end of the night, we raised more than $30,000 to support the organization and its programs—including both Urban Scrawl and the George Bellows Art Grant Program, which supports artists and arts programming in the neighborhood.

Coleman’s leadership as mayor helped create an environment in which the arts could flourish in Franklinton. In many respects, we felt like this year’s auction was a bit of our “coming-of-age” moment—like we are really beginning to make a permanent impact in the community.

We also moved this year’s auction into the newly-renovated second floor of the Idea Foundry, which I would say is one of the newest jewels in the city’s crown. The structure of the space was perfect because it allowed attendees to be completely immersed in the completed Urban Scrawl panels—much like you are when you’re attending the actual event.  After the sun went down and the room darkened, the art exploded from the walls. It was a very special night.

To that end, do you feel the FTON Arts District has a responsibility to carry the “buy local art flag” since some of that has been pushed from the boundaries of the Short North?

There is definitely a grittier, non-traditional aspect to the art that is being created in Franklinton, both at Urban Scrawl and in the hundreds of artist studios that now exist within the neighborhood. There must be a wide range of voices, viewpoints, and styles in a city’s art community to ensure its long-term sustainability. We are doing what we can to support this goal by creating opportunities for both new and established voices to be heard.

Is it a paradox to want to maintain this underground feel to the art and the event, but also be striving to raise as much money as you can?

Protecting the uniqueness and authenticity of Urban Scrawl is always our biggest priority as we plan each year’s event. We would love to expand the ways in which we are able to support the arts and artists in Franklinton, but there is a limit to how Urban Scrawl could (and probably should) be the vehicle for generating the kind of revenue we would need to do so. If we can find a way to expand while not straying from its original purpose, we are open to new ideas. But we have no interest in expanding or changing Urban Scrawl simply to be able to raise more money or auction off more panels. We’re not here to make a buck, we’re here to make some art—and our artists and attendees appreciate that.

What were some of your favorite pieces that went through this year’s auction, and/or whose work do you look forward to seeing this year?

Last year, Tonya Marie constructed a sculpture of a woman using fabric, found objects, and other materials directly onto her 4-foot by 8-foot panel. It was one of the first fully three-dimensional panels that we have had at Scrawl, and it showed just how far our artists are willing to push the envelope on what can be produced over two days in 90-degree heat. I am anxious to see what she creates this year if she decides to participate.

Lucie Shearer is also an artist that I always look out for – her style is distinctive and lends itself well to the large format that Urban Scrawl promotes.  This was a big factor in why we asked Lucie to create the branding and poster design for this year’s event, because her pieces do a great job evoking the creative spirit of the event. Kirsten Bowen, Mandi Caskey, and Zakary Burgess are also high on my “watch list.”

There’s always plenty of talk about East Franklinton versus the rest of the neighborhood and the pace at which it has developed. How does Urban Scrawl and the Bellows grant program fit into the responsibility to serve the neighboring community, and not just the art buyers that come in for the auction?

First off, the idea of “East Franklinton” exists only in the offices and on the maps of developers and city planners.  If you ask the people who live here, there is only “Franklinton,” or, somewhat more controversially, “The Bottoms.” As an organization, we have no interest in trying to rename or otherwise create new, artificial boundaries within a community that pre-dates the founding of Columbus. Our goal is to connect Franklinton residents with opportunities to experience art in their own backyard, while also supporting those artists who live or work in the neighborhood.  It is important to have visitors come in from all over the city (and across the region) to experience art in Franklinton and purchase art from local artists, however, it is equally as important that the people who actually live here are able to partake in these activities as well. We believe the arts offer fun yet meaningful ways to connect the rising fortunes of the eastern portion of the neighborhood with those areas that have been underserved for decades.  Over the past two years, we have awarded grants to arts education programs at Lower Lights Ministries, school music programs at Franklinton Preparatory Academy, and even individual artists like Kat Francis and Christopher Tennant, both of whom live and work in the neighborhood. Our goal is to expand the amount of financial resources we can offer as we grow the program each year so that the rising tide lifts all boats, if you’ll pardon the flood metaphor.

Urban Scrawl 11

8.26-27 @ 400 West Rich

franklintonartsdistrict.com

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Kate Morgan, 2D mixed media artist

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Kate Morgan began developing her ghostly, layered two-dimensional portraits after going back to school at the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2005. She already had some background in visual arts through her work in fashion and commercial photography, so the transition to drawing and painting was organic.

Morgan’s textured collages are inspired by folklore, mythology and a variety of artistic periods — especially Byzantine art. The 2011 Columbus Arts Festival Emerging Artist alum and 2019 exhibiting artist welcomes a wide array of complex themes into her pieces — including symbolic, cultural, historical and spiritual themes — while utilizing layers of vintage paper and original drawings to create visual depth and a sense of mystery.

Her pieces are purposely vague, leaning toward more minimalistic ideas to allow for wider interpretation by audiences. Largely her art depicts the female form, with as many layers and stories to tell as that of every human being. This is done with an eclectic assortment of materials — including sheet music, German Biblical pages, newspaper and maps — to add detail in both a topical and textural sense.

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And yet, Morgan still continues to look for a challenge. From venturing away from her familiar blue hues to exploring different mediums like ceramics, her work knows no creative limits.

Morgan has exhibited at the Columbus Arts Festival nearly every year since 2011. She has gone on to win two jurors’ choice awards in the 2D category at the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as sell and have work juried at other major festivals across the country. In Columbus, her work can be seen as part of the Columbus Makes Art and Donatos Pizza collaborative mural “Every Piece Is Important” at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Morgan has a BFA from CCAD and currently works out of her Franklinton studio in Columbus. Experience this stunning work first hand when you visit her at booth M572 on the Main Street Bridge during the Columbus Arts Festival from June 7-9 at the downtown riverfront.

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Arts & Culture

Be Square: Changes coming to arts community at 400 W Rich

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If you haven’t visited the thriving arts community at 400 West Rich street in awhile, you might be surprised to see how much things have changed. Now, the minds behind the city’s hub for the arts are changing things up to better reflect the area’s evolution.

400 Square is the new collective moniker for the array of concepts that currently occupy the buildings on the 400 block of Rich street in Franklinton. The rebrand seeks to unify the community of artistic innovators who call the area developed by Urban Smart Growth their creative home.

Promo art for 400 Square by Anthony Damico

Spaces encompassed in the rebrand include Strongwater, The Vanderelli Room, and Chromedge Studios, and of course, the studios at 400 W. Rich. While the name may be changing, the group remains committed to providing and sustaining a thriving hub for creatives through education, resources, and entertainment opportunities in the area.

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With the launch of 400 Square, Urban Smart Growth Director of Operations Seth Stout has led his team to develop new offerings for each of the growing spaces. Food and Beverage Director Lauren Conrath and Events Director Molly Blundred have taken the lead with changes to the Strongwater brand, while Community Director Stephanie McGlone and Art Director AJ Vanderelli are facilitating programming for all ages and abilities on the artist side.

Through all of the changes on the way, the staff at 400 Square are committed to bringing the public the same high quality of workshops, events, exhibitions, and more that have always been part of their unique creative community.

Stay tuned for more info—the new 400 Square officially rolls out during the weekend of Columbus Arts Fest 2019, June 7-9.

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Arts Fest Preview: Cousin Simple to wow crowd with energy, passion

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As a young up-and-coming band, Cousin Simple is excited to play at this year’s Columbus Art’s Festival. In their two years as a band, they have already done a lot of really cool things, such as making a single with L.A. multi-platinum music producer David Kershenbaum, playing at Vans Warped Tour at Blossom Music Center, and selling out shows at the A&R Bar, the Basement and The Big Room Bar. But there is much more they want to accomplish including recording more music, making a music video and playing more shows in and out of Columbus.

The band members are all Columbus born and raised. Four members currently attend The Ohio State University, while their drummer Joel is finishing up his junior year at New Albany high School. Cousin Simple brings an energy and passion to the stage and gives everything they have to their performances, regardless of the crowd size. They just released a new single in February called Honeybee, available on iTunes and Spotify and have a single set to release May 10 titled “Star Destroyers.”

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Columbus is a great city for musicians. Whether you’re in the indie, rock, or hip hop scene, there are other musicians and music industry people willing to help you out. Columbus also takes a great sense of pride in its “local gems.” People love to see musicians who are doing well in their hometown and are willing to support them in many ways.

There are so many organizations that have taken this to heart and are helping bands get great opportunities. CD102.5, WCBE 90.5, PromoWest Productions and the Columbus Music Commission have helped Cousin Simple get airtime, shows and support. When it comes to music cities, Columbus may not be the first place that comes to mind, but there are so many bands and musicians doing exciting things it’s making the future bright for them and the Columbus music scene.

But Cousin Simple recognizes that none of this would be possible without the support of their family, friends and FANS that come to each and every show. They are humbled and motivated by their audiences who energize them to make every performance an experience their fans won’t forget. 

Cousin Simple will perform on the Big Local Music Stage on Rich Street on Friday night, June 7 at 7:45 p.m.

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