One of the first artists to create murals in the Short North, a section of Columbus that has become well-known for them, has been selected to paint one at the boundary between Clintonville and North Linden.
Gregory Ackers, 56, of the Powell area, who painted the arts district’s Union Station mural in 1987, a decade after the building was demolished, and a scene of a train arriving in the station on another Short North wall a year later, was the choice of a three-member committee from the Clintonville Historical Society, North Broadway Street Association and Maize Road Civic Association.
“Being picked is quite an honor,” the artist said last week. “What I’ve always told myself is if you live long enough, things will come your way.”
The mural, which is to adorn the western wall of the railroad bridge at East North Broadway and Interstate 71, is being funded by $6,500 the historical society received through the Chase 200Columbus Neighborhood Grant Program as part of the city’s bicentennial. Its theme will depict the joint history of Clintonville and North Linden.
The final design must be approved by the Greater Columbus Arts Council.
Ackers was chosen from among four artists interviewed, as well as some others from outside of the central Ohio area who expressed interest, by a committee of society president Mary Rodgers, North Broadway Street Association president Carole W. Tomko and vice chairman of the Maize Road Civic Association Jeff Scarpitti.
“It was not an easy decision,” Scarpitti said. “I think there were several well-qualified artists. I think probably what made me appreciate Mr. Ackers’ work a little more was some of the past murals he’s painted in the Columbus area, in the Short North and downtown.”
A Gregory Ackers mural once graced a wall of the old City Center Mall.
“They were all very, very good,” Tomko said. “They all had great experience dealing with community. They all had excellent portfolios. I think at the end of the day part of what drove the decision for Greg was that this is the first time for our neighborhood something of this magnitude has been done, and his mural in the Short North is iconic. It’s known throughout Columbus.
“We want this underpass to be as well-recognized and well-loved.”
“It was really kind of a difficult decision,” Rodgers admitted. “We had a number of excellent artists.
“We liked his work and we liked the fact that he had worked with that kind of scale project before. He is a known artist in the Columbus area as far as the Arts Commission is concerned.”
Ackers, according to a website dedicated to murals he did of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in Ottawa, Ill., has a bachelor of fine arts from Ohio State University.
The native of Springfield, Ill., has more than 20 years of experience as a muralist, and has completed more than 50.
“We’re excited about working with him,” Rodgers said.
Ackers has begun reviewing images from the Historical Society’s archives to derive inspiration for the mural and he also will try to look at old photos from North Linden, according to Rodgers.
“When you’re a visual person, and all of the things I’ve done in the past have been one learning experience after another, you get to the point where things come automatically to you,” Ackers said.
He added that his design takes into account the specific site and its surrounding area, with a goal of developing continuity with the color and composition of the overall scene.
“That all has to work like a symphony,” Ackers said. “That’s the way I see things.
Rodgers hopes that the preliminary drawings from the artist are ready for residents in both communities to see and comment upon by the first week of April. The society president hopes to hold two receptions for the artist and the preliminary design, one in either community. She’s also contemplating holding a “pizza share” challenge in which residents from Clintonville and North Linden would meet, perhaps at a church, and share with one another the favorite pizzas from their neighborhood while reviewing the drawings.