Saturday, March 21, 2015

Columbus Street Art, I'm Calling You Out

This has gone on long enough.


Listen, I'm no expert on street art, and I'm not usually one to call out deficiencies in the central Ohio arts scene, but enough is enough. If Columbus intends to establish itself as a world-class city capable of supporting and advancing the visual arts, we really need to step up our game when it comes to street art, murals, and graffiti, because we clearly aren't world-class in this area yet.

Yes, I know we can all point to any number of individual successes, "What about the Short North murals? What about the Mini-Murals? What about Aminah Robinson? What about Urban Scrawl? Jeff Abraxes? Vinchen? Those count for something, don't they?" I suppose they do at some level, but I can't be the only one who browses sites like Unurth and StreetArtUtopia and sees a noticeable gap in quality between what's produced locally and what's happening further afield.

Part2ism, Opium Wars, London

And really, beyond those efforts listed above, who are the locals creating graffiti or street art that's of visual, emotional or intellectual interest? (Note: This is not a rhetorical question. If you know of someone, please school me now! Stephanie Rond and John Stommel are the only ones I can think of, and I believe John left town, taking his considerable talents with him). Is the problem documentation? Maybe great work is being done and I'm just not seeing it. I've maintained all along that someone invested in the local street art scene ought to start a blog and do the hard work of documentation.

Vinchen, Highly Desirable Luxury Object Retailer, Columbus

Maybe the issue is an inadequate support system. What systems do we have in place to develop really great street art? Where are public/private partnerships? What funding is available? What are the schools doing? Does CCAD still support it's Campus Mural Program? Could they expand it? What about Ohio State or Campus Partners? What about the GCAC, the OAC or the Cultural Arts Center? Does anyone even teach street art classes? Why not?

Jon Stommel, River Recreation Mural, Vancouver BC

I know the Short North is taking steps to encourage street art, and so is the Franklinton Arts District. A few years ago I highlighted some of my neighborhood's street art in an article for Columbus Underground (Counter Offensive: Street Art Gains Ground in Old North Columbus). While those initiatives were worth documenting, they were, by and large, modest efforts of an individual nature. Nothing noted in that piece was indicative of either systemic support or a larger cultural investment. Individuals saw a need to create and acted accordingly. That's great as far as it goes, but imagine how much more we could do if there were a coordinated effort to increase the quality, visibility and ricnhess of street art in Columbus.


  1. You probably already know the following, but I think they're worth calling out. Like you wrote, it doesn't seem like we have unifying efforts to bring street art to the city.

    Covert Number 1

    Lil Miss Birdy

    Bad Trumpeteer




    Left Handed Wave (Sometimes, as he is based in Chicago)

    Hawke Trackler and Doug "Fast Foot Jack" do a nice job of documenting.

  2. Hey Bryan, thanks for commenting and thanks for sharing your list! Actually the only artist that I'm familiar with is Coreroc, so this is great stuff. I'll definitely start following those folks. Also, I posted a link to my blog post on the Art and Artists of 614 Facebook page, and it's gotten quite a bit of discussion going. Maybe I'll see if I can follow-up with some folks and do a piece for Columbus Underground on street art in Columbus.

  3. Am I to envy you, your fairy tale?
    When all I see, is cold, hard, truth.
    -Marc Breed

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