Columbus Artists’ Works Popping Up on Billboards
You’ve probably been seeing some special billboards around town. When Maria Bamford performed at the FunnyBone Comedy Club in April, she noted that Columbus was a town that must be full of artists. It was probably the best shout-out to a city that I’ve ever heard a comedian give. The ArtPop program found success in Columbus last year and has been extended. Billboards featuring the work of five local artists began appearing in mid-April and will be on display until mid-April of 2019.
Forty-one artists submitted applications and the five that were chosen were Richard Duarte Brown, John Grosvenor, Cassidy Rae Marietta, Alissa Ohashi, and Amandda Tirey. The ArtPop program is in fourteen cities across the nation and was created to promote artists, give them a voice, create public street galleries, and energize residents’ commutes.
Marietta feels the outdoor billboards provoke conversation which allows a deeper connectedness with the viewer, and that is why she submitted her art for the project. Marietta is a surrealist illustrator working with ink, mixed media and digital design. For her ArtPop submission, the illustration was done in micron-pen, and marker, then colored further using digital methods in Photoshop.
Her piece, We only come out at night generates a dialog of human acceptance, body positivity, and self-love. “The human body is a truth of our existence,” she says. “It supports us and carries us through life. It is beautiful and organic, and the only physical vessel that we have. It should not be confined to idealism, censorship or judgment.”
Richard Duarte Brown’s submission, The Harlem Renaissance: Past Present and Future, features community thinkers and creatives “that evoke the celebratory and liberation of the Harlem social and political revolution that stimulated the creatives and raised culture warriors that confronted the needs of their city and times.”
The older man featured in the painting, Dr. George A. Miller -a man whose career has taken him through teaching, owning several entrepreneurial businesses, earning the position of first African American Director of the Franklin County Welfare Department, and now, owning Black Art Plus on Parsons Avenue in Olde Towne East- was the inspiration for the piece as a whole.
Duarte hopes his piece will “connect with the younger creatives, visionaries, and dreamers – the next generation of cultural warriors.”
Amandda Tirey was encouraged to apply after seeing her friend Stephanie Rond’s work in last year’s ArtPop program.
“I admire and love her and her work so much…I couldn’t help but fantasize seeing my work on such a large scale too,” says Tirey. “Even though it was a long shot in my mind.”
Her piece Ghost Poppies (2012 oil on canvas 24″x48″ original size) was selected.
“If our art can alter the landscape of what is sometimes just a drab sea of bumper to bumper cars- life in the city will be a little more enjoyable,” she says.
Alissa Ohashi’s piece Free Hugs, also celebrates the work of the Harlem Renaissance. “It carries the same underlying themes of equality and working for social change that I explore within my work,” she says. “I was lucky enough to get to travel to Washington D.C. for the Women’s March in 2017 and to connect with other progressive thinkers as well as getting to experience the tension from protestors during Trump’s inauguration the night before. The photos that I submitted were taken on January 20, 2017 during the protest and I thought it was such a beautiful juxtaposition of institutional power and grassroots change.”
When someone views Free Hugs, Ohashi hopes that the viewer is reminded that equality doesn’t come easily for everyone. She hopes the billboard will “cause people to stop and think about some of these issues that can be difficult to talk about, as well as inspire positive change for our community.”
John Grosvenor’s piece, Rise Above, centers on the themes of rebirth and the perseverance of spirit.
“Ironically, this piece was intended as a secondary mural in the Weinland Park neighborhood, but that didn’t pan out,” he says. “When I saw this competition, I immediately thought of this piece that did not get the opportunity to see the light of day. Rise Above now has a second life to be shared with the Columbus Community.”
“ArtPop provides a way to address current issues, understand and observe our history, all while strengthening our communities,” said Marietta.
Grosvernor feels that being able to catch someone’s attention in the first few seconds will help lead to seeing something in a new way. “ArtPop is a great opportunity to expose my art to a larger audience then I am usually able to reach,” he says.
Duarte agrees and hopes it will continue to put Columbus on a national level as an art city. “I hope it causes people of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to know our city pops with diversity, safety, and real cultural respect for each other,” he says.
See the artists’ works on billboards throughout Franklin County, as well as downtown City Solutions news racks and a digital display close to the John Glenn International Airport. For more information about the ArtPop program, visit ColumbusMakesArt.com/artpop or ArtPopStreetGallery.com.