German Village Gazette

Chalk artist's work adds flavor to Red Brick menu

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Chalk artist Bryan Grey poses for a portrait in front of one of his pieces at Red Brick Tap & Grill.

Every Monday morning artist Bryan Grey has to wash away another masterpiece with soap and water.

"It's a little deflating, but the best part is I get to bust out a new piece," said Grey, who creates elaborate sandwich boards at Red Brick Inn Tap & Grill in Merion Village.

A trained illustrator, Grey said he likes working in the medium of chalk.

"It just comes to me," said Grey, who lives in Schumacher Place. "I just press on the board and it happens. I just get into that zone."

The Red Brick is one of Grey's current restaurant clients. He creates a theme on a 5-by-7-foot chalkboard displaying one of the restaurant's specials.

Last week, he used the "Mad Hatter" pizza to create a vivid Alice in Wonderland mural complete with the Mad Hatter, Alice in a teacup, a Cheshire cat and March Hare. Instead of a tea party, he said, it's a pizza party.

He spends 90 minutes to two hours every Monday creating his weekly board, always based on a dish at Red Brick.

"I don't know what I'm going to do when I run out of menu items," he said.

Grey, 47, said he doesn't see it as disposable art, but rather a larger branding effort at the restaurant, something with which customers can identify.

Owner George Stefanidis said it's money well spent, although he wouldn't say how much he pays for the pieces.

"It's costing me a little extra, but I think it's worth it in the long run," Stefanidis said.

"He sells my product. It's a lot when you look at it. He does good work and the presentation is really out there.

"It's creative. It catches people's eyes."

Red Brick isn't Grey's first gig. He's done similar projects for the Surly Girl Saloon and Dirty Frank's, two restaurants in the Short North where he previously worked.

He now collaborates with What the Rock? and Three Dog Bakery, both of which are also located in the Short North. Sometimes he uses chalk, other times something permanent.

Grey graduated from Columbus College Art and Design and got into corporate retail, eventually relocating to the Gap in San Francisco.

His work took him to Tokyo, Berlin and cities throughout Canada and the U.S. He's also worked locally at Bath & Body Works.

"The money was good," he said. "And I liked working with a team."

But he got burned out on the corporate world and fell back on his artistic abilities, and bartending and serving.

"It was a real wake-up call," he said.