Will a mural painted on the side of a building attract tourists to the Old Hilliard Historic District?

Will a mural painted on the side of a building attract tourists to the Old Hilliard Historic District?

Hilliard Arts Council executive director Ken Brenneman says he thinks it will and has recommended the city invest $20,000 in a public art project if additional funds are allocated to the group in 2009.

Brenneman's other ideas were to sponsor a return performance by the vocal group Five By Design at a cost of $10,000, to bring in a touring theatrical production for approximately $30,000 or to host an ongoing concert series, which he did not have a cost estimate for.

In early-December, Council President Brett Sciotto suggested funds be redirected from the Convention and Visitors Bureau to the Hilliard Arts Council to help the Arts Council promote an event that would be a "regional draw," and bring visitors to the city.

Brenneman was asked to return to city council's Recreation and Community Involvement Committee with a wish list of three potential events that could be considered regional draws.

When Brenneman returned to the committee's Dec. 22 meeting, he said a public art project was at the top of his wish list.

"The Hilliard Arts Council has been discussing the addition of public art in the form of a mural painted on the wall of a building, much like what has been done in the Short North," Brenneman said. "We have done some preliminary investigation into the possibility of having this done in Old Hilliard."

Brenneman said Arts Council representatives have met with mural artist Curtis Goldstein, whose work is featured in Columbus' Short North Arts District.

Goldstein's 45-foot-by-60-foot recreation of George Bellows' "Cliff Dwellers" painting is prominently featured at the southern entrance to the Short North.

A Columbus native, Goldstein has painted several murals in central Ohio including works in Dublin and Newark. He and his wife, Michelle Attias, also oversaw the restoration of the Mona Lisa mural in the Short North.

"He is getting to be extremely well known all over the United States for his public art," Brenneman said.

Brenneman said he envisions a historic mural that depicts Hilliard before there was a Hilliard.

"The idea we liked the best was to do a mural there that would be Hilliard, 300-400-500 years ago, what it would have looked like as far as forest plains, animals that would have been there at the timeWe believe it would draw a lot of people to Hilliard. Because of Curtis Goldstein it would give us a lot of publicity and people would come to the community, if nothing else, just to see the mural."

Brenneman said he even has a potential site in mind.

"One of the promising sites is the building at 4060 Wayne Street," he said. "The owner, Brett Frebus, was willing to offer up the side of this building for the mural."

Brenneman said the mural would add to park and rail trail bikeway improvements projects planned in Old Hilliard.

"It certainly would attract cultural tourism to the city and most particular to Old Hilliard," he said. "Many communities have done this to boost tourism spending in their communities."

Committee Chair Kelly McGivern said she appreciated Brenneman's quick response to council's request for a potential new event to sponsor.

"I appreciate your willingness to think outside the box and to put these three very different proposals together in a very short time frame," McGivern said.

Sciotto said he appreciated Brenneman's efforts but needed more time to review the recommendations.

"My interest was to create something that was a regional draw that would kind of help put Hilliard on the map and bring people from central Ohio here," Sciotto said. "I would want some time to review these and see if this is what we intended and what we want to do."

Council Vice President William Uttley said he too wanted more time to study Brenneman's recommendation before making a final decision.

"I would agree with President Sciotto that I kind of want to think about this a little bit too," Uttley said. "If you polled the council members individually and the mayor, I think we would all probably have a different idea of what we would like to see in that mural."

Sciotto said with a new park planned adjacent to the mural site he would want to make sure the designs were compatible.

Councilman Tim Roberts agreed, saying he thought the mural design could be incorporated into the design of the proposed park.