CCAD Celebrates 20 Years of its Iconic Art Sign
Columbus College of Art & Design’s 100-foot tall steel ART sign has become synonymous with Columbus itself, a symbol of the Columbus arts scene used in everything from city marketing to student photo-ops.
This summer the art sign — which is technically a sculpture — celebrates 20 years as an enduring image of Columbus and a representation of the many creatives who continue to make the city what it is.
Professor Emeritus Ric Petry originally came up with the idea of installing a sign over 20 years ago, when he was the recently-named dean of media studies. He first envisioned a big, red, neon sign atop the school’s Canzani Center.
“We had been part of the downtown texture, but nobody really knew where CCAD was, for a number of causes,” he said. At the time, there was no quad and fewer school buildings. “If anybody wanted to say where’s CCAD they’d say, ‘Well it sits somewhere behind the museum.'”
He pitched the idea to one president, who Petry said had “too much to do” and wasn’t around for very long. CCAD’s third president, Dennison Griffith, was much more receptive.
“He was really looking for ways to make CCAD more visible,” said Petry. “He really saw that there was a need to make a bold statement and to make something interesting and exciting for people to see, and to call out Columbus’ support for the arts.”
Dale and Grant Beavers, owners of The Artglo Company, and team came up with what is standing today.
“I remember Denny and I going over to look at some preliminary sketches, and we were floored at how big it was and grandiose vision was at the time,” Petry said.
The sign was installed over 10 hours during summer break, on June 23, 2001.
Petry remembers pieces of the sculpture being hauled in and assembled on what was once a vacant lot, then lifted by crane in dramatic fashion.
He said when he looks at the sign now, it’s hard to imagine what the area looked like before. It’s much more vibrant and active, he said, with restaurants and bars now actually within walking distance of the school.
“It’s a little hard to say that the art sign made it all happen, but I think it didn’t hurt,” he said.
CCAD has already begun celebrating the 20th-anniversary milestone with a social media campaign and pop-up photo tour, visiting some of the neighborhoods that have had the most impact by CCAD grads, including Franklinton, Milo-Grogan and Clintonville.
20 years ago, CCAD Vice President for Institutional Engagement Chris Mundell worked at Ohio State, but he remembers the hype around the sign, when people could only speculate over its lasting impression on the school and the city.
Today, students look at the sign as CCAD’s logo and view it with pride.
“Our current students, when they’re first arriving at CCAD, have to take a photo with the art sign,” said Mundell. “And I think it’s something that our graduating seniors take pride in when they graduate…knowing that they’re a part of this creative community and that they’re really doing some things that are impacting the world in a better way.”
He said with 13,000 alumni around the globe, CCAD grads are working in roles that are shaping the world around us. 20 years from now, CCAD sees itself continuing to be an institution central to the fabric of Columbus, from educating its next creative leaders to working with other organizations to demonstrate the importance of art and design.
“That’s going to be a way to distinguish Columbus, being a place that’s really supportive of the arts and creativity,” Mundell said.
As for the sign, it will continue to be a symbol of CCAD’s continued impact on the Downtown area.
“We have some big plans for continuing to enhance our campus and make the area around CCAD more livable,” Mundell said. “And I think the art side is going to be an anchor for a lot of that change to come.”
For more information, visit ccad.edu/artsign.