While some communities deal with graffiti and tagging problems by covering them up or making arrests, the city of Westerville is hoping to meet street artists halfway by engaging them in their new "Mural on the Path" project.
In collaboration with the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County and the art organization ALTernative, Westerville will turn a stretch of "storage shed walls" into a lengthy piece of artwork.
The sheds of Cellar Lumber, at 137 E. College Ave., will hold a mural that stands 16 feet tall and about 100 feet long. The sheds are along the Westerville Bikeway, south of College and north of Park Street.
Residents both young and old will have input along the way, and professional artists will make it so that all can participate.
"I don't want to use the phrase, 'paint-by-number,' but it will be where everyone can be involved," Westerville Parks and Recreation Director Randy Auler said.
But the community's input, he said, will be one of the most important parts of the project.
"We're looking at it as a blank canvas," Auler said. "We want the community to be engaged and help us come up with the vision for the mural. During this process we'll identify what the mural will look like and then people will help paint it."
Auler said he thinks the mural can be a source of pride for the community, and made sure to involve those who have orchestrated these projects before to make it more successful.
"We have a lot of people that use the (bikeway), and we have a lot of young adults that use the parks and the pathways and the area there as well, and sometimes that building will get tagged," he said. "So I saw the concept with ADAMH. They have done mural projects in Columbus, where they have engaged the community in the process and the community has helped create the mural. So I thought that would be a great opportunity for our community."
The mural will be painted on a series of 8-by-4-foot wooden panels attached to the buildings, and Auler hopes the community-created work will help to dissuade potential taggers from putting unsavory works on the area.
"Sometimes we've had some vandalism or some incidents where that particular building may be tagged with profanity, so we want to engage youth and adults in the process," Auler said. "If you help design it, you kind of create ownership of it."
The mural's budget is somewhere between $13,000 and $17,000, and Auler said the costs will be split between ADAMH and the Westerville Parks Foundation. Funds will go toward supplies and the large panels, and the process is slated to finish before Labor Day.
The project kicks off with a community input meeting from 6:30-8 p.m. Monday, June 2 at the Westerville Community Center, 350 N. Cleveland Ave. There will be free pizza and refreshments, and Auler hopes the event will get people excited about creating the mural.
The parks department will also introduce the "#muralonthepath" hashtag for Twitter and Facebook posts about the mural.
The whole concept, Auler said, is an effort to continue to integrate art into the community, and he hopes the mural can galvanize artists in Westerville.
"It's really about bringing the community together and engaging them in the arts," he said, "and that's part of our effort to expand the arts in the community."