(Posted Oct. 20, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
With the help of a local artist, property owner Mick Harris is making a big statement about what he thinks of London and what he hopes others think of the city, too.
Mick owns the one-story building at 58 E. High St., across the alley from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Earlier this month, he commissioned London resident Kurt Lattimer to paint a mural paying tribute to London on the building’s 80-foot-long east-facing wall.
“I’ve been kicking around the idea of a mural ever since we bought the building in 2014,” said Mick, who lives just outside the city limits with his wife, Natalie, and their two children, both students at Madison-Plains.
“I have a story to tell,” Mick said.
That story is about loving the place you call home, honoring its heritage and place in the grander scheme of things, and supporting its people and potential. The quote incorporated into the mural sums it up: “Where dreams come true.”
The Harrises moved to London in 2001. Mick works in information technology for AEP. Natalie is a stay-at-home mom and works part-time as a payroll processor.
“I’m from a small town (Xenia), moved to a small town, and now I view London as mine,” Mick said.
“I hear so many kids in London—it’s like talking to a young me—say they can’t wait to get out of school, do their own thing, get out of town. That’s how I was as a kid, but now I’m living the dream. I’m with the same girl I was with in high school, I’m doing OK for myself, we have a couple of kids and those couple of kids are healthy… Everything I need is here.”
Mick’s aim with the East High Street property is to offer a space at a reasonable rate to local people with business aspirations who “bring something special to the community.” The current tenant is Madison Dance, owned by Megan Gossard.
“Megan was the instructor when my daughter took dance classes at the Armory 10 years ago. Megan’s dream was to have a dance studio of her own in London, and she’s doing a great job,” he said.
So, how does all of this get incorporated into a mural? Mick turned to Lattimer, a 2008 London High School graduate he knows through church.
“He’s just got really amazing talent,” Mick said of Lattimer, a tattoo artist by trade who also creates fine art pieces and does diamond-tip hand etching on granite for Roby’s Memorial.
“We just started bouncing ideas off of each other about what London means to people and what attracts people to London,” Lattimer said.
Lattimer sketched the ideas out on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper, then used a grid system to transfer the idea onto the building’s concrete block wall.
In the front half of the mural, an American flag serves as a nod to small-town America. The London and Madison-Plains high school team logos set against the outline of the state of Ohio represent hometown rivalries. A depiction of the county courthouse pays homage to a central, historic landmark. Personal touches include entwined wedding rings, a tribute to Mick and Natalie’s marriage, and the silhouette of London First United Methodist Church, where the couple are members.
The back half of the mural was inspired by a London resident Mick admires, Bob Sommers of Cognac Farms. In tribute to Sommers’ love of classic cars and deep connection to agriculture, the mural shows a 1965 Mustang and a cornfield with the sun setting in the background.
“I met Bob through church. He’s somebody I aspire to be,” Mick said. “I’ve never heard a bad thing about Bob. If you talk to him for five minutes, you know he has a good soul.”
Work on the mural began Oct. 13. Lattimer said he hopes to finish it by the end of the month.