Symbols of Hilliard's railroad heritage can be seen nestled in places throughout the city, but few depict it as vividly as the 15-by-35-foot mural finished earlier this month on Center Street.
Curtis Goldstein, a 43-year-old Upper Arlington resident, finished the mural in five weeks, far ahead of the Oct. 10 deadline and much sooner than he had planned.
"It was a fun mural to paint," Goldstein said.
It was the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, responsible for postponing or cancelling numerous events, that played a role in the early completion of the project. Goldstein said he had planned to work on the mural evenings and weekends after finishing up at his job as graphics artist for Giant Eagle.
"But once the pandemic began, I didn't want to risk bringing COVID home to my family," he said.
Goldstein said he left his job at Giant Eagle and "worked on the mural from sunup to sundown."
In December 2019, Hilliard City Council commissioned Goldstein to design and create the mural for $10,000. It is painted on the back wall of Otie's Tavern & Grill, 5344 Center St., facing the patio of the Center Street Market and across the street from Hilliard's Station Park.
It is the first piece of new artwork to be solicited by the Hilliard Public Arts Commission.
Created in 2017, the Hilliard Public Arts Commission established a public-arts policy in 2018, under which Goldstein's proposed mural was recommended for approval.
The commission first had approved the mural of a sunflower that Kelley Daniel had painted on the garage of her Madison Street home in 2009 and had been required to cover it with boards because it did not comply with city code.
That incident led Daniel to lead the creation of the public-arts commission.
Daniel, chairwoman of the public-arts commission, said Goldstein's mural is "impressive."
"It is a beautiful work of art. It reflects our history and adds uniqueness to our community," Daniel said.
A dedication ceremony for the mural is planned for July, but no date has been set, Daniel said.
Goldstein, who has painted public murals at Westgate Park in the Hilltop neighborhood of Columbus and at the corner of East Main Street and state Route 256 in Reynoldsburg, said the Hilliard project represents an extension of his work on collages.
"When I designed it, I wanted to do something with paint that I had done before when working with mosaic tiles," he said.
Goldstein's mosaic-tile work, which he has done with another artist, Matt Lynch, is on display at the Cincinnati Art Museum and in other places throughout the Queen City.
"The drawing and the framework (for the Hilliard mural) is realistic, but within it are so many patterns, colors and textures," he said.
The train depicted in the mural is a nod to Hilliard's founding in 1853 by John Reed Hilliard as a railroad stop called Hilliard's Station. The mural includes images of grain silos and sunflowers.
Goldstein described the design as having "richness and depth" and said he strived to illustrate "nature meeting technology" against the backdrop of a Midwestern landscape.
Tim Kauffman, executive director of Destination Hilliard, said the mural should attract visitors to the district.
"I love this colorful mural that is a reminder of Hilliard's history and a visual gem in the evolution of Old Hilliard's attractiveness and value to our residents and visitors to our community," Kauffman said. "The thoughtful transformation of a mundane wall into a vibrant expression of creativity by the artist will be a reminder of Hilliard's past and future."
More artwork is on the way for the city, Daniel said, though precise steps have yet to be identified.
"We are talking about a call for an artist for a mural on the end of the (Hilliard Civic and Cultural Arts Center) facing Wayne Street," she said.