Public Art to continue growing throughout Downtown Springfield and beyond

If you’ve wandered around Downtown Springfield lately, you might have noticed some new public art pieces that have popped up on building walls and planter boxes.

In the past few years public art has become more of a staple of the atmosphere of Downtown and throughout the city as a whole, and it continues to be at the forefront of plans moving forward.

Springfield’s Public Arts Committee was created by the Greater Springfield Partnership and includes a diverse group of local artists, cultural non-profit leaders, City officials, foundations and businesses.

Collectively, the group works to recognize how arts contribute to the quality of life in Springfield and help make the city more vibrant, more attractive, and more livable, says Marta Wojcik, the executive director of Springfield’s Westcott House, who is one of the active members of the Public Arts Committee.

When the committee starts planning for new public art, they typically focus on one new project at a time, she says.

Wojcik gave the example of the Greetings from Springfield mural, which was supported by the Springfield Foundation and the Young Professionals of Greater Springfield group actively fundraised to make it possible. And Project Jericho, she says, seeks grants to support public art while involving local youth to execute the projects.

In 2020, Wojcik was able to secure various federal and state grants – on behalf of the Westcott House – from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Ohio Arts Council to support the works of the Public Art Committee.

The funds will support the groups public art strategic plan and engage three or four local and national artists to create permanent works of public art.

“So, it’s a combination of local investment and state grand funding (that supports our public art),” Wojcik says.

Determining which art will be added next is both a complex and collaborative process, she says.

“Currently, we are very focused on the Downtown area, but our hope is to grow this program and bring art to all parts of our community,” Wojcik says. “Fortunately, most of the property owners realize that the art increases the visibility and value of their property.”

The most recent major public art addition to Downtown is the mural comprised of a collection of out-of-this-world creatures that was painted on the side of the Bombshell Beauty Parlor, 20 W. Columbia St. The artwork isn’t as traditionally “nice” or “pretty” as some of the other murals and art pieces throughout Downtown, though it is attractive, interesting and full of color.

“Public art, in particular, is important because it is accessible to everyone, and it is highly visible at all times,” Wojcik says. “The more public art Springfield has, the more we demonstrate to our citizens that there is willingness to invest in and celebrate our community.

“And to the outside world of visitors, potential investors and businesses looking to relocate, it shows that we understand the key components of what makes a community a successful, thriving place.”

The new “alien” gives people something new to investigate as they explore Downtown and something different to choose to interpret. It was created by artist Steve Ehret, who has also created public art in Canton.

Ehret was sought out specifically and funded by the grant because of his expertise in public art.

Some of the other public art throughout Springfield is selected from pools of local artists who submit their art and public arts committee members vote on the final selections. Some of those pieces can be seen wrapped around utility boxes – for example – hanging from utility poles and around planter boxes on City Hall Plaza.

Wojcik says the future of public art in Springfield continues to be discussed as part of the group’s strategic planning process. And, she shared that the grant funding will be used next year to engage two nationally recognized artists to create more larger-scale murals in Downtown Springfield.

“We are also looking into the possibilities of bringing more three-dimensional art installations,” Wojcik says. “We wish to continue featuring local talent and celebrating local artists.

“Springfield is lucky to have many remarkable artists who truly embrace this community.”

In addition to its accessibility and use as a civic engagement tool, Wojcik says public art is a community asset for so many reasons.

“It’s our way to support local artists and makes Springfield a desirable place for artists to live because we demonstrate that we value their creativity,” she says, adding, “It boosts the local economy, it enhances the quality of life and community pride, and it helps celebrate our cultural heritage and history of our place.”
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Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.