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Large Mural Project Planned for Harrison West Tunnel

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Large Mural Project Planned for Harrison West TunnelPhotos courtesy of the Harrison West Society.
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The Harrison West Society has announced a multi-year project to improve the Olentangy Trail tunnel and the surrounding area, with a local artist at the helm of a large-scale mural at the site.

Harrison West Arts President Annie Keener said an idea was floated to update the tunnel under State Route 315 on the Olentangy Trail in Harrison West, which is poorly lit and in an “overgrown” area of the park. However, the project has since grown to include commissioned murals in and around the tunnel by Columbus artist Ashley Pierce.

Keener said Pierce’s early sketches for the project have been bright and accessible to a variety of demographics, though staying in line with her traditional style.

She said the early ideas have been exciting to see, and that Pierce has the “absolute right vision” for the space.

“She has a tremendously great aesthetic that we think is gonna work really wonderfully in the space,” she said. “She’s very passionate about the project as a whole of what it can do for Columbus and the arts landscape of our little pocket of the city.”

The Harrison West Mural Project hopes to transform this area of the popular trail into an area that can be likened to Cleveland’s Script Sign or the University of Michigan’s social media-driven Wings mural.

“What we’re going to do to that site is going to radically change the way that that area of the trail looks,” said Keener. “Our goal is to really make it a landmark of Columbus.”

The tunnel itself is 120 feet long and, with nearly 500,000 annual visitors, is a part of the trail that cyclists and joggers are likely not fond of being alone in after dark.

But in addition to improving the safety of the area, Keener said, it happens to be a great open space for public art.

“I think it’s just going to be such a tremendous addition to that area,” she said. “It’s a really, really exciting opportunity to really make this area a hallmark of Columbus.”

The project will be completed in three phases over three years, starting with the outside two walls of the tunnel, followed by the inside of the tunnel, and then the sides and pillars of a nearby overpass for phase three. All three phases will be cohesive, eventually making one large mural.

The group is interested in doing something “cool” and interesting with the landscaping, said Keener, in coordination with the mural.

The first installation will likely begin this fall, subject to funding. The organization has set a budget of around $40,000 a year and has so far received a third of the funding for the first phase through grants from the Columbus Foundation and the Short North Foundation.

The project hopes to hit their first fundraising goal by mid-summer.

“We’re starting the process of talking to some companies that might have a vested interest in also seeing this area improve,” Keener said, adding that the project will be seeking out donations and community support, as well as corporate support.

As far as other opportunities for community participation in this project or others, Keener encourages neighbors to get involved in the Harrison West Society.

“We meet once a month and we talk about what we can do to make our neighborhood better,” she said. “We really do have a small pocket of great, concerned, involved neighbors, and we’d always love to have more voices for that.”

For more information on the Olentangy Trail Mural, visit harrisonwestarts.org.

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