I left my teaching job at the Columbus College of Art and Design and moved away from Columbus, Ohio in 2013, to take the position of Associate Director of the University of Georgia’s Cortona Studies Abroad program in Cortona, Italy. I have lived full-time in Italy for almost six years now, and have drifted out-of-touch with the goings-on in downtown Columbus. It was therefore a shock when my friend Fred Fochtman, a painter and art conservator who helped me restore the mural in 2013, messaged me to share the news of State Auto’s decision to demolish the warehouse on which the mural is painted, in order to build a parking garage.
I supervised the mural project in 2005, with the help of so many good people: CCAD President Denny Griffith, State Auto AVP Win Logan, CCAD art students Brent Payne, Jenny Carolin, Tyrome (“TJ”) Stewart, and Joey Macklin, to name just a few. Through the project I also met the artist Aminah Robinson and WOSU-TV producer Cindy Gaillard, not to mention dozens of Columbus residents who knew the area back when it was a working-class African-American neighborhood, as vibrant and colorful as Aminah depicted it in her painting. The project taught me valuable lessons about working large, working collaboratively, and working publicly. It also gave me many “non-art” skills that I use constantly as an arts education administrator today: planning, budgeting, using spreadsheets, researching and ordering supplies, job site safety and risk management, tracking employee hours and payroll. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever taken on, which is why its rewards have been so rich. It is certainly one of the accomplishments I’m proudest of in my life.
When I looked online for information about the city’s decision to approve State Auto’s plan for a new parking garage, I didn’t find much of an outcry from the public against the destruction of the mural. I myself am depressed that our idea to beautify the area and honor its history, and our passion and dedication and all the hard work it took to make it happen, will be reduced to rubble. But at the same time I know that progress and development are inevitable forces, and there is little I can do to fight such forces from halfway around the world, especially when there is no one asking for the mural to be saved. Aminah Robinson passed away in 2015, we lost Denny Griffith to cancer in 2016, the students have graduated and scattered, and I don’t think Win Logan works for State Auto anymore. According to Kyle Anderson, the Head of Communication at State Auto Insurance Company, the current administrations of the CMA and CCAD have accepted the mural’s destruction. As someone who has frequently in her life packed up and left, moved away and shut the door on the past, I suppose I can walk away from this. Vita longa, ars brevis.