“A Street Called Home” Mural – 2005

In 2005, I supervised the painting of a mural on the wall of this warehouse at 555 Boone Street in Columbus, Ohio, belonging to the State Auto Insurance Company.  The project was a collaboration between State Auto, The Columbus Museum of Art, and the Columbus College of Art and Design — three neighbors in this area of downtown Columbus called the “Discovery District”.  State Auto generously provided the wall and the funding, the art museum houses the work of art the mural is based on, and CCAD provided talented student painters.

When it came time to choose which of the museum’s artworks to use for the mural, we knew that a segment of Columbus native Aminah Robinson’s “A Street Called Home” would be perfect.   This piece was the original art for the book of the same name that Robinson wrote and illustrated in 1997, and it’s now one of the prizes of the museum’s collection.   It shows what this area of Columbus looked like when Aminah was a girl.  The colors are vibrant, cheerful, and attractive, and the composition is eye-catching and full of movement.  The long, horizontal format of the artwork is perfect for a wall that is 150 feet long and 20 feet tall.

After cleaning and priming the wall, we divided it into a grid of numbered squares, then painstakingly transferred a line drawing of Aminah’s artwork.  Then we began painting.  More than 30 students worked on the mural; we began in July and finished in mid-October of 2005.  We began each day at 7am, while it was still cool and pleasant, and worked until the sun came over the wall and began to heat it up, usually about 1 pm.  Then we had to stop for the day, because the paint we used could not be applied while the wall was in direct sunlight.  When the mural was finished, it was coated with a varnish which protects its colors from fading, and shields it from the weather and pollution.

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The most important step in making a long-lasting mural is proper wall preparation. After a strong power-wash, we applied a tinted epoxy primer that is designed to prevent rust stains from the cinder block coming through our painting.

Because this mural is so large, we transferred the drawing by grid rather than projection. A projected image is often distorted, whereas a grid makes it possible to transfer proportions perfectly. Especially when the draughtsmen are well-trained CCAD students!

Each student copied a four-foot square section of the drawing in charcoal, then traced over their line with thinned-out black paint.

In the middle of our work on the drawing, State Auto decided it would be safer for us if we had a full scaffold to work on. This was a godsend, as it allowed us to bring more artists onto the project, and also gave us a bit of shade while we were working. The only disadvantage was that now we had to wear hard hats all the time!

The blue border was painted first, and then we began painting in color. We used Nova Color Acrylic paint, which is excellent for murals.

Students painting on the top level of the scaffold.

Student Tommy Bennett glazes quinacridone purple over a white underpainting. We only used pigments with excellent lightfastness, which meant that sometimes we had to use complicated painting techniques to get the color effects we wanted.

Pam Ahern works on a section of the mural.

Brent Payne, my right-hand man on this project.

WOSU-TV came to the wall several times to film us working. Later they produced a segment called "Art in the Outdoors" that included a brief documentary of our project. You can find the link to this documentary at the bottom of the Mural gallery page.

Jenny Carolin painting buttons. While much of the mural reproduces Aminah Robinson's cartoon-figure style, it also reproduces in tromp l'oeil the buttons, fabric scraps, and stitches that Aminah sewed into her artwork. This high degree of realism required the most skillful upper-level painters from CCAD.

The best part of the project was getting to meet Aminah Robinson in person. We went to her house and saw her workspace, and talked to her about her work, her travels, and her obsession with Leonardo da Vinci. In this photo (clockwise from lower left): Brent Payne, Nurul-Ayn Blewett, Kris Schramer, Aminah Robinson, TJ Stewart, and Tommy Bennett.

A 2005 feature about the mural on WOSU’s Broad & High.
A 2005 story about the mural in The Columbus Dispatch.

More about the Mural…

Columbus Art Walks
ArtZine documentary, April 1, 2006 (updated 2013)
Columbus Dispatch, August 4, 2005
Columbus Dispatch, October 22, 2005
Image Magazine, Fall 2005
Columbus Alive, December 14, 2006
Columbus Dispatch, August 9, 2009
Columbus Alive, July 8, 2010

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