COLUMBUS, Ohio — Community members in Linden came together on Saturday to discuss a mural on Cleveland Avenue that has become the center of a debate between a tenant in the building and the muralists.
The mural was a part of Ohio State's Linden Empowerment Murals, but some said it's not exactly what they signed up for.
“I am an artist that loves art with all my heart,” said Muralist Joel Cross.
He said his love for the craft is the best way he can give back to his community. This is why he partnered with OSU’s Linden Murals of Empowerment to help kids in the community add beauty to bare buildings.
Cross said this is the reason that he fights to keep the kids’ artwork up on Cleveland Avenue where messages of hope and love cover the side of a building.
“You should have saw them out there, their faces lit up, they were having so much fun with the creative freedom I gave them to express themselves,” said Cross.
A debate stirred after a Facebook post quickly spread from community members expressing concern, stating that a tenant in the building wanted the mural removed. Over 1,600 people signed a petition from OSU's Linden Murals of Empowerment group supporting the mural.
Conia Almon, who works for Premium Business Solutions, located inside the building, said her team wants adjustments made to the mural
because it’s not exactly what they signed up for.
"It's never been about not supporting the children, it's about teaching them responsibility,” said Almon.
Almon said they don’t want the mural taken down, but do want to work toward a solution of changing some parts.
"I think that the images, they still need to be adjusted, in my opinion, that's my opinion, art is subjective,” said Almon.
One of the key images was the eyes of a man on the building. Some community members questioned the color of the man's eyes, but Cross said the kids’ intention was to paint eyes full of emotion.
"There was not negative intentions in these kids' minds or in their hearts. All they wanted to do was express themselves in exactly in their minds and how they felt,” said Cross.
Almon said Saturday’s meeting helped both sides express their concerns so they can start working toward a solution.
“Everyone's validated, that's the key, everyone was validated tonight,” said Almon.
She said the next step is conducting workshops together and agreeing on the final illustration as a community.
"I think for us the solution is that we come back to the table with the same young people who created the artwork that's out there, all the same players, and say, 'okay this is how we fix it',” said Almon.
Cross said the artists also want to find a compromise, but he said he cannot ethically take down the kids’ work.
"As far as touching those kids' artwork and crushing their hearts because they poured everything into it, I don't think that's a good idea at all. So I am willing to add onto the artwork and meet somewhere in-between,” said Cross.
Both parties said they will go back to the drawing board to make adjustments for the spring.
This is just the first of 10 murals the group will be creating throughout Linden. The next will be led by Shelby Toone on the side of Linden’s Fresh Market.