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Local artist “Birdy” finds like souls and towers to climb in Columbus

Mandi Caskey was used to jetting across continents for her art.

After achieving local esteem for her large-scale murals and street art, the 27 year-old Lima native was working as a traveling muralist and visiting extraordinary places to create her art, such as Israel in 2019. 

And then—the pandemic. The virus gone global forced her to cancel plans in Africa, Australia, and other countries. She had to stay local and Columbus’s favorite muralist quickly realized it was a fortuitous turn of events—the artist known as “Birdy” found she could find just as much inspiration at home and took the disappointment from canceled mural festivals to fuel an important change in her focus.  

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“This year I got to look more inward and collaborated more locally and spent time strategizing about how to create public art that is more meaningful to my community instead of making art everywhere,” Caskey said.

Caskey said the internal reflection awoke her to the importance of her artistic viewpoint in Columbus. 

“It’s all about the collaboration and getting people to see the absolute adventure and growth that can come with contemporary muralism here. That’s really exciting to me,” she said. 

“I realized that there’s absolutely an opportunity for me to put my flag in the ground here and make something for my city and my state,” she said. “That’s so important to me, and it’s solidifying my place here and my confidence in what I am doing.”

Caskey’s now working as an art consultant for The Fort, a multi-functional business complex in Columbus’ south-side Steelton district she came across when she first arrived in Columbus nine years ago as a CCAD student and budding street artist.

Upon arrival, she found canvases in abandoned buildings and structures around town and ended up at what is now The Fort. She even tried to scale the water tower back then. 

“That canvas has always been a dream of mine,” she said. 

As an art consultant, Caskey plans to bring that dream to fruition. “To say I get to paint it is a bucket list thing for me!” 

The Fort is a place that feels like home to Caskey. 

“I realized that The Fort has been consistent in my path through Columbus, even in the weirdest, most sketchy times of my career,” she said. “I’ve been there getting chased by cops or shuffling through dirt; now it’s become a real thing for me and I love it and I am super excited.”

Besides painting the water tower, Caskey plans to paint murals throughout The Fort’s campus as well as Grandview and the OSU campus. She is also dedicated to creating a contemporary street art gallery and a contemporary art award. 

“There’s not a lot of recognition right now,” she said. “There are great artists coming out of the woodwork doing great work, and it’s super important to recognize those people within our community.” 

With a new focus and purpose Caskey is setting down roots in the city she started out in.

“The people at The Fort are so genuine and love it there,” she said. “That passion is what is grounding me in Columbus for the rest of my life.”

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