University District plan aims to bring art and appreciation to the off-campus area


The Wexner Center for the Arts is in the heart of the university district. The University District Arts and Character Plan is an overview of community-driven ideas for the future of public art near the Ohio State Campus. Credit: Ris Twigg | Photo editor assistant

For many, a dumpster serves only one purpose. But in the University District Organization’s new plan, it’s a blank canvas for expression.

The University District Arts and Character Plan is an overview of community-driven ideas for the future of public art near the Ohio State Campus. It also serves as a framework to highlight several concepts for local artists.

“The plan is useful and it sort of centers everyone’s thoughts around a framework of ideas. That these ideas turn into something else gives us at least a starting point, ”said Matthew Hansen, Executive Director of UDO.

UDO is a nonprofit group that works to improve community engagement and make the region a “more exciting and interesting place to live,” according to its website.

After two years of planning, the organization is installing two different projects: trash can murals and a music trail.

The idea of ​​using the dumpsters as canvas art came after the organization noticed a large amount of graffiti at disposal sites.

“[Other cities] I saw that once [art] settles on the surface of the dumpster and then the labeling disappears because it’s no longer an attractive object to display their name, ”said Hansen.

About two-thirds of Columbus’ concert halls are located in the college district, which led to the evolution of the Music Trial project.

Similar to programs like the Columbus Beer Trail and the Coffee Trail, the Music Trail would feature a passport that would be stamped in different places. Participants would earn a reward, such as a T-shirt, after completing the course.

Hansen said the group is working on a pilot that could launch this spring.

These two projects are part of a larger plan that began in April 2016, when several community members visited UDO to discuss better representation of arts culture in the community after noticing its strong presence in the university district.

A raw steel “High Street” sign was installed in October by the University District Organization. Temporary signage will be in place for a few years until construction of the intersection begins. Credit: Kevin Stankiewicz | Editor-in-Chief

“We have the Wexner Center; we have artists who live in the neighborhood; but there was no study or understanding on how this impact has improved the college district as a whole. Has this influenced our culture in the region? said Hansen. “It was seen as a lost opportunity as we had so many artists living in the neighborhood and arts organizations that formed.”

Hansen said the UDO had asked for help from the community – including representatives from neighborhood groups, businesses, the undergraduate government and the Wexner Center for the Arts – in hosting a six-month workshops to determine what the public wanted to see in the neighborhood.

Lots of public commentary echoed the same message: residents don’t want flashy, expensive artwork, and they love the idea of ​​temporary art.

An example of temporary art is the installation at East 14th Avenue and High Street which features a mural, plants, Adirondack chairs and a steel “High Street” sign. It will only be operational for the next two years until construction of the intersection begins.

“We saw an opportunity to improve this place and make it a bit more user-friendly so that people stop and hang out in the area for a bit, maybe have a coffee and sit in the sun when the weather is nice. , “said Hansen.

While the entire charter plan is currently primarily conceptual, Hansen said highlighting local history is an area of ​​particular interest. For example, he said that a “prescriptive” idea is to show the story of The Great Diavolo – a circus artist who lived in the Old North during the 20th century and rose to fame as a daredevil. .

Local artist Stephanie Rond collaborated with Dionne Custer Edwards to transform the SBX wall into a work of art, complete with flying books and a poem by Custer Edwards. Credit: Kevin Stankiewicz | Editor-in-Chief

Hansen said a mural would be created to commemorate Diavolo’s circus poster, complemented by bicycle sculptures to give the illusion of passers-by by his side.

Other ideas outlined in the plan include an interactive piece of art, sculptures and murals in the parks, a permanent High Street sign, orientation signs, public speaking soap boxes and a playground. adult game.

Another recommendation is to integrate student and local artists in order to offer them opportunities to present their art.

“We have tons of talented students who will benefit from these public art projects. We’re going to pay all of our artists, so it’s not just a free concert, and it’s really important to us because we know that art is a business for a lot of people and we want to support it, ”said Hansen.

With these changes, the college district could become “Columbus’ street arts district,” Hansen said, adding that the plan would turn the neighborhood into a cooler collective place to live.

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