Proposed Cooke Road mural hits CAC roadblock

Commissioners delay approval to let residents share thoughts

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A mural by Danielle Poling proposed by the Clintonville Historical Society for the Cooke Road railroad overpass would pay tribute to the American Indians who first called the area home.

Approval of a second Clintonville Historical Society mural -- this one at the Cooke Road railroad overpass -- will have to wait until June 5 to receive the blessing of Clintonville Area Commission members.

Several on the panel indicated at last week's monthly meeting that they felt blindsided by the request, and that residents of the neighborhood had not been given sufficient opportunity to weigh in on the project.

Society President Mary Rodgers and artist Danielle Poling appeared before commission members hoping to secure a letter of support to take to the Columbus Art Commission so that a campaign to raise the needed $11,000 could begin.

Instead, they got a letter drafted by District 9 representative D Searcy advising that a decision is being put off until residents have had an opportunity to comment on the proposed public artwork, which would be a sort of homage to the American Indian culture that once flourished in the area.

"I wasn't aware that this project was moving forward ... ," Searcy said. "There needs to be a thorough vetting."

"It is going to be, if installed, very prominent in the community," Chairman Daniel B. Miller told Rodgers in supporting Searcy's motion to approve the letter delaying a ruling.

Rodgers said the delay will create a "huge time crunch" for the artist. In addition, she said, the fundraising campaign now will have to go on without the words Cooke Road attached to it in case a negative CAC recommendation requires relocating the mural.

She countered that she and Poling, whose works have been displayed at galleries in the Short North and elsewhere, have been collaborating on the project since January and have done considerable outreach, discussing the project with more than 100 people since that time and receiving Columbus Art Commission approval last month for both the location and design.

"It's a very important project because there is no depiction of native woodlands in public art in the area," Rodgers said. "To date, our process has been sitting down with people face to face."

"These murals, I'm hoping, will inspire the public to take an interest in the people who used to live here," Poling told commission members.

District 2's Nancy Kuhel saw no reason to hold off on sending a letter approving the mural.

"I do see the value in this project historically, culturally," she said. "I think we should be looking at this as an asset to the community."

Libby Wetherholt of District 3 agreed.

"I just don't see any point in putting this off," she said.

"The problem is we're having to decide something on the fly ... without pause for reflection or asking a few people," said Jason Meek, who represents District 7.

"I am fully expecting a positive response from the community," Dana Bagwell of District 5 said. "We haven't had the chance as commissioners to talk to the community. I just want to make sure that we're doing our part in the process."

The vote to send the letter advising that final approval or rejection of the Cooke Road mural would be delayed was 5-3, with Chairman Miller abstaining. Meek joined Kuhel and Wetherholt in voting against the delay, while Bagwell, Searcy, Rob Wood of District 1, Victor Ketcham of District 5 and Kristopher Keller of District 8 were in favor of the measure.

Near the conclusion of the meeting, Rodgers informed commission members that Poling would not be able to attend the June 5 meeting due to a scheduling conflict. She inquired about the possibility of a special meeting being called regarding the mural approval.

Miller advised her to take up the request with Wetherholt, who represents the district where Rodgers resides.

The first mural commissioned by the society adorns the East North Broadway railroad bridge. Completed by artist Gregory K. Ackers in fall 2012, the mural commemorates the shared history of Clintonville and the adjacent Linden neighborhood.