By Dedra Cordle
When someone comes upon their property and sees a work of art, it’s usually a variety of the unwanted kind. But the vision Rachel Upton saw on the morning of June 10 had her smiling in utter delight.
As she drove down Sullivant Avenue to her ice cream shop, Cream & Sugar, she saw a half-dozen people installing art panels on the side of her establishment near the drive-thru window.
The artwork, a colorful piece by local artist Brian Marcus, was bright, wild and completely welcome to make a home there.
“It’s just really, really cool,” she said.
Its placement hadn’t exactly been a secret, she admitted, but she did have some hesitance when Summer Jam West reached out to her last year about installing an art panel on her business.
After a little bit of mulling, she decided it was something that had to be done.
“I love art and I feel seeing a wonderful piece of art can change how someone sees the neighborhood,” she said.
Upton said she hopes people driving through or living near the neighborhood can find a bit of pride and happiness in what they see.
The idea to install art panels on well-kept businesses is a part of the mission of Summer Jam West, a local organization whose goal is to promote an interest in the arts and to install permanent public art displays throughout the westside community.
Patti Von Niessen, the executive director of Summer Jam West, said the area needs a little bit more art to look at.
“We live near all these art hotspots but there is not much here,” she said. “It’s something of an art desert.”
Von Niessen said she believes that art can change lives, so she and the Summer Jam West Board have made it their goal to get as much artwork into the community as possible.
Their public artwork mission began two years ago with the installation of a 14-foot stainless steel Monarch Butterfly by local artist Rachel Pace at Westgate Park. Last year, the organization commissioned Upper Arlington artist Danielle Poling to create a large mural called the Fantastic Food Garden on a concrete wall. This year, Summer Jam West has done two things; commissioned artist Roger Williams to work on a mural of the Camp Chase Trail and commissioned local artist Brian Marcus to create an art panel for Upton’s businesses.
It wasn’t the first time Marcus has been commissioned to create artwork, but it was the first time his art has been displayed permanently in a public space.
“This is really great,” he said.
Marcus said he was given complete freedom to come up with a design for Cream & Sugar and all that came to mind was something crazy and unconventional.
For over a month, he worked on the piece, which he later titled “Step By Step Up Starez” and the end result was a pink, lavender, blue and chartreuse controlled frenzy of stairs and swirls.
“It reminds me of a creamery and hills that look like ice cream,” he explained.
He also said there is a message there that reminds him of the people on the westside.
“It’s taking a negative and turning it into a positive.”
Marcus said he loves the idea of art panels on businesses and would be interested in creating more if anyone is interested.
Von Niessen added they also have one more art panel – a piece by Tiffany Christopher that celebrates the city’s Hispanic heritage – ready to be installed should a well-maintained business inquire about its placement.
Von Niessen encouraged artists to reach out to Summer Jam West about creating art panels, but said they only want fun and bright things to add to the community at this time.
“We’re not looking for serious or political statements for these art panels,” she said. “We’re looking for crazy and wild adventures, something that is bold and fun and appeals to and reflects the greater majority of people who live on the Hilltop.”
To contact Summer Jam West about art panels or to inquire about Christopher’s piece, Von Niessen said they can be reached at their website www.summerjamwest.org or at their Facebook Page by searching for Summer Jam West.