Columbus, Ohio USA
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'Six in the Short North' Shares Stories of Columbus
Mural art continues to embellish brick buildings

by Margaret Marten
April 2017 Issue

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Artists Write
Six Word Stories

Brouillette, Adam: Blue Within a Sea of Red (Blue Within A Sea of Red) at 895 N. High St.

Burk, Christopher: Unique neighborhoods. Diverse inhabitants. Hidden gem. (Indigo and Yellow Nocturne) at 650 N. High St.

Faur, Christian: Tending gardens of ash and symmetry (tending gardens of ash and symmetry) at 680 N. High St.

Gantt, Doug: Trolley bells signal journeys to come (Trolley Bells) at 1209 N. High St.

Gentilini, David: Tired. But Wiser For The Time (Tired, But Wiser For The Time) at 1259 N. High St.

Hamilton, Julia: Columbus, My
Diamond In the Rough (McKinley Murmuration) at 997 N. High St.

Monsoon, Joey: A Silhouette of Streets Delivers Him (A Silhouette of Streets Delivers Him) at 700 N. High St.

Rietenbach, Tim: A dazzling,
troubling spectrum of humanity
(US, 2015) at 674 N. High St.

Robinson, Aminah: Passing glances en route to Columbus (Passing Through Logtown, Georgia) at N. High and Russell streets

Romecki, Denise: Growing green, planting trees, Columbus breathes (Growing Green) at 761 N. High St.

Rosen, Ricki: Childhood Memories Will Forever Embellish Us (Memory Dresses) at 862 N. High St.

Secrest, Michael: Goodale Park Breathes For The City (Homes Off Goodale Park) at 1130 N. High St.

Skeens, David: These words aren’t enough for us (These words aren’t enough for us) at N. High and E. Poplar streets

In the summer of 2012, ten temporary vinyl murals were affixed on Short North buildings as part of the city’s bicentennial celebration and remained there just over a year before being replaced a few months later with 11 new murals. Thus began a very versatile, practical and satisfying program of public art, incorporating the visual arts along with thematic elements to enhance the experience of everyone visiting or passing through the district.

David Skeens ©

The fourth and newest installment of the Short North Temporary Mural Series, “Six in the Short North,” was placed in late May. The murals are copies of standard-size artwork enlarged and printed on vinyl adhesive and heat-adhered to the exterior of brick buildings. A shrink-wrap effect brings out the wall texture and gives the appearance of a painted mural. The artworks are selected by galleries and arts organizations (such as the Gateway Film Center) who partner each year with the Short North Alliance on the project. The number of works and participating galleries and organizations vary with each installment, although several Short North galleries – Brandt-Roberts Galleries, Lindsay Gallery, pm gallery, Sherrie Gallerie, Studios on High Gallery – have contributed every year.

Author Larry Smith is collaborating with the Short North Alliance this year to make the project even more engaging and memorable. Smith is best known as the publisher and editor of the online magazine SMITH, which founded the Six-Word Memoir project that became a global phenomenon in 2006 after presenting an online challenge asking “Can you describe your life in six words?” The responses of over one million six-word memoirs evolved into a bestselling book series.

Smith lives in the Short North with his wife Piper Kerman. They moved to Columbus in 2015. Shortly after their move here, Columbus became the pilot for Smith’s Six in the City program that brings Six-Word Memoirs to cities across the nation as a tool for civic engagement. This mural project is an example of that. The artists were asked to illustrate a six-word story about Columbus with a focus on their feelings about the city.

David Skeens, one of the mural artists, said he was actually unaware of that directive while developing his work, but believes his art is about Columbus because it’s presented in Columbus.

Unlike the other contributors, Skeens’ design consists merely of text on a black background. The message “These words aren’t enough for us” could mean different things to different people at different times and that’s what Skeens and his sponsoring gallery, Joseph Editions, intended.

“It’s up for so long, you want it to have some legs to live,” he said, “and not be so one-dimensional that it’s like you see it and you get it right away.”

Similar to any work of art, his piece is open to various views, but for Skeens it’s mostly about intimacy and love. “It’s a struggle because not all emotions and states are easily communicated.”

As a copy director and word merchant for L Brands, Skeens, 46, has mastered the art of wordplay, particularly the six-word sort of brevity Smith popularized, so his contribution is singular in that respect, but for almost 20 years, his personal poetry and design compositions remained largely out of the public view.

He began snippets of prose and poetry some 19 years ago while on vacation. “I just started,” he said. “I was sitting on a rooftop at this boutique hotel in Puerto Rico. I was sitting by myself and just sort of writing these things.”

While he continued to produce hundreds of pieces over the years, for the most part his work remained in a drawer, unseen, until Rebecca Ibel got wind of it. Plans to show his typeset poetry at her then extant gallery never panned out, but when Le Méridien Hotel, The Joseph opened a couple years ago, Skeens was invited to produce work for that facility as well as Joseph Editions gallery.

Over the past five years (with the current installment) a total of 50 mural artists have been given large-scale exposure through the Short North project. Joey Monsoon, Michael Secrest, and Wallace Peck have participated twice. Thirteen artists at 13 locations were chosen for the new series.

Two programs will complement the project this year: the Six Word Stroll and Share and the Short North Art Trail. The stroll is scheduled three Sundays throughout August and September offering a tour of several murals, some discussion, and a 90-minute slam/workshop with Larry Smith, inviting participants to write six-word stories about the Short North, Columbus, their own neighborhood, and “change occurring within and among all.” The Art Trail app allows mobile phone users to locate the murals, neighborhood galleries, and the permanent artworks. Information at the tour stops describe the artists’ process and inspiration, and participants are rewarded with prizes once they “check in” at the trail stops. The mobile tool can be accessed at

“The mural project is a perfect manifestation for the power and possibilities for Six in the City,” said Smith, “offering anyone and everyone a chance to share a story.”

© 2017 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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