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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 [...]



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

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Arts & Culture

Q&A: Columbus artist Mandi Caskey wants to bring us together




Context plays one of the most important roles in our understanding of art. For instance, if you saw the unveiling of Columbus artist Mandi Caskey’s latest masterpiece, you’d probably equate the message to the daily protests that have been held in Columbus over the past week.

When the mural on the abandoned highway overpass near Scioto Audubon Metro Park was started, that wasn’t the case. It was a message meant to distract us from the hardships that COVID-19 flooded our lives with.

Now, to some people, the mural’s message, which stretches over 400 feet, takes on a new meaning.

(614) caught up with Caskey to find out the inspiration behind the piece and how she feels about subjectiveness in art. Check out a brief Q&A below and some incredible aerial footage from photographer/videographer John Thorne.

Obviously a project this big can't be tackled alone. Who all helped bring this idea to life?

This project was originally an idea that I wanted to do secretly aka illegally, but my business partner came up with a better idea. And that was to get other artists involved and pay them during the stay-at-home order. 

The whole time we honestly didn’t think we would be able to get approval on all the permits we needed, but thanks to Lori Baudro, over a month and a half we got permission and permits from the Department of Public Service, ODOT, and the Arts Commission. We were honestly in shock. 

When it came down to businesses, we started working with Tim Cousino, who’s an architect. He figured out all the measurements we needed. From there we had to get our hands dirty and clean the surface of the bridge, which had five 9-foot around dirt piles that we shoveled off.

Once the surface was prepped and ready to go, we had Jacob Bench come out. He’s an engineer that helped translate all of Tim’s measurements. The project would have been 10 times more difficult without him! 

Through the process, we slowly grew the team. David Greenzalis is my partner in crime so he was there from the beginning. Katie Bench, Hawke Trackler, Lisa Celesta, Ariel Peguero, Chris Blain, Patrick Cardwell, Eric Terranova, Sam Rex, and Justin Paul, who has taken the amazing footage everyone has seen. All of these people are passionate, hardworking, and just awesome to be around. I was excited when we all came together. 

From what I've read, it seems like your idea for this was green-lit very quickly and easily. Why do you think people responded to the idea in your message so strongly?

There’s a combination of reasons everything moved so quickly (in terms of government) ha-ha. Part of it was the fact people were at home; they wanted something to get excited about. This was a project people could easily get geeked out about: 400-foot long mural on the bridge that has been abandoned for 10-plus years! I think they just wanted to see if it could happen. Also, the bridge will be torn down in a year or so; this means the mural doesn’t need any upkeep. The fact it was temporary made it an easy Yes for people. Still in shock this all worked out so smoothly.

What roadblocks did you run into during the process of creating the mural?

A big roadblock that no one could help was the weather. Man, was it a beast to work with. When we first started prepping the bridge, it was raining and around 40 degrees outside. We were in coats with gloves for half of the project. Then it rains for almost two weeks straight, which pushed back any painting we wanted to do. The days when we did get to work was easily 95 and scorching! We were all burnt to a crisp! It was stressful but fun working with this crazy Ohio weather.

How do you think art helps people during times of unrest and uncertainty like we're in right now?

Art is truly the bridge between thoughtful conversations and action (pun intended). Public art specifically can be the most impactful since it’s meant to be viewed by everyone. There’s no fee to look at it, no dress code, no need for art knowledge, just acceptance and appreciation are necessary. 

Art in general helps people look outside of their own personal bubbles. We can see into someone else’s mind for a split second and become apart of the art and experience. I think we forget that art is a living representation of us, but I hope through this unsure time we start to remember why humans started painting in the first place.

I think there's something to be said about how the mural was made on the basis of the coronavirus pandemic and bringing people together and now it can take on the meaning of the social change that needs to happen in this world. What are your thoughts on that?

Originally the mural was made because I personally felt alone and knew so many other people were feeling the same way during the stay-at-home orders. Once the project actually started to become a real thing, “we are stronger together” became more about the people who were working together; so many different types of backgrounds and artists. People from different periods in my personal life, all coming together and making something epic. 

When it was all said and done, the words are made for everyone, from any background, race, gender, far and wide. It’s a message that I hope makes people know I’m with them, that no matter the craziness in the world, someone’s got your back.


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Arts & Culture

Columbus artists employed to paint boarded-up downtown for #ArtUnitesCbus




The Columbus arts community has really stepped up to the plate when it comes to trying to unite and inspire during tumultuous times. One of the latest efforts from visual artists around the area includes CAPA and Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) latest partnership, #ArtUnitesCbus.

“When I do these projects, I try to remember to have fun and enjoy my loved ones. Even though it’s a bad time, there’s always room for love,” visual artist Hakim Callwood said.

The creative venture will exist to employ around 20 Columbus visuals artists. Their job will be to paint murals in place of the broken windows at the Ohio Theater and GCAC office. 

The art installations are expected to be finished by the end of the week.

“#ArtUnitesCbus is just one small way the arts community is trying to help. These murals are not the answer, simply a message that we ALL can, and must, help heal our community,” said Tom Katzenmeyer, President & CEO of the Arts Council, in a GCAC press release on Monday

Now more than ever is an extremely important time to give our community artists a platform. 

“The Columbus artists are more of a family than I think people understand,” Callwood said. “Whether we all talking every day or hanging out together; it doesn’t matter. When there’s times of need we always use our talents to support.” 

Check out the progress of their murals below.

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Arts & Culture

Weekend Roundup: 5/29 – 5/31




With Ohio slowly starting to fully reopen, initial in-person gatherings have trickled into our news feeds.

Below are a few things you can check out over the weekend if you’ve been itching to leave your house and are capable of following COVID-19 guidelines.


Fair Food Weekend @ Oakland Nursery

One of the most disappointing summertime cancellations was the axing of the Ohio State Fair. For those still wanting to get their elephant ears or deep-fried oreo fix, Chester Foods will be bringing a pop-up food truck to the Oakland Nursery. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, fried oreos, fresh-cut fries, and lemonade shake-ups will all be on the menu. Fair food will be set up on both Friday and Saturday.

Time: 12 p.m. - 8 p.m. | Address: 4261 W. Dublin Granville Rd.


Sonic The Hedgehog/Jumanji: The Next Level and The Hunt/The Invisible Man @ South Drive-In

With movie theaters in Ohio still closing their doors, the drive-in revival has been sweeping the state, nation, and world. Once drive-ins were given the go-ahead by DeWine, South Drive-In began to provide the double feature experience to eager moviegoers. Admission is $9.50 on Friday/Saturday and $7.50 on Sunday for those 12+, $2 for ages 5-11, and free for those under 4.

The showings for this weekend are as follows: 

Screen 1:

  • 9:05 p.m. Sonic The Hedgehog (PG)
  • 10:53 p.m. Jumanji: The Next Level (PG-13)
  • 12:56 a.m. Sonic The Hedgehog (Friday/Saturday only) 

Screen 2:

  • 9:25 p.m. The Hunt (R)
  • 11:05 p.m. The Invisible Man (R)
  • 1:09 a.m. The Hunt (Friday/Saturday only)

Check out the South Drive-In website to see what social distancing guidelines need to be followed.

Time: Arrive 1-2 hours prior to first showing | Address: 3050 S. High St.


Reggae on the Patio @ Skully’s Music-Diner

If you’re in search of a relaxing Sunday, look no further than Skully’s. The music venue/bar will be opening its patio for those to have socially distance hangs, drinks, and wings. Skully’s will be setting the mood perfectly for a chill Sunday by spinning reggae music all night long. Get yourself out of the house and go catch some island vibes.

Time: 7 p.m. - 2 a.m. | Address: 1151 N. High St.

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