Thanks to a generous grant from the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation, the East Walnut Hills Assembly (our neighborhood council) is working to add a new community mural on the northwest corner of William Howard Taft Rd. and Woodburn Ave.
The East Walnut Hills mural project launched in March 2021 with an open call to artists soliciting applications from experienced muralists. Simultaneously, a community survey was conducted and over 100 people affiliated with East Walnut Hills shared what makes the neighborhood special, provided basic design direction, and had the opportunity to voice concerns about the project implementation.
In general, the community expressed an interest in a mural that should complement the surrounding area and be reflective of the diversity of people who live, work and visit the community. The community also desires a mural that highlights the historic and architectural elements of the neighborhood or complements them by bringing natural and organic elements to this intersection. The community desires a design that is peaceful, aspirational and makes the neighborhood feel welcoming. The community is not interested in a mural that primarily features text or functions as a billboard for the neighborhood.
Artist applications were reviewed by a committee of community stakeholders composed of residents, artists and neighborhood business owners and 3 finalists were chosen to submit conceptual designs in response to the community survey. Those conceptual designs are below. Thanks to everyone who participated in voting for the final conceptual sketch; the chosen artist will be announced soon!
James Billiter is a designer and artist specializing in illustration and custom typography. He is a graduate of Purcell Marian, where he became interested in art and continued his education at the University of Cincinnati, studying Graphic Design in the DAAP program. Later James studied printmaking in the Art Academy’s Community Education program and created Billiter Studio to develop personal artwork and to work with clients on branding and art projects.
James develops his work with the audience in mind using Design Thinking and brings this work to life using hand-crafted methods such as printmaking and painting. Billiter Studio’s work celebrates place-making and cultural history with the intent of inspiring community pride and belonging in the viewer.
“For the Taft and Woodburn mural I would like to celebrate all of the East Walnut Hills community; I wanted to capture all the natural beauty and cultural diversity —from the edge of Eden Park in the West to Torrence in the East, from Woodburn Avenue’s historic district and residential areas in the north to river views in the south.
“Creating a detailed ‘seek and find’ scene that engages the residents to find their part of the neighborhood as well as inviting them to explore parts of the neighborhood they haven’t visited yet. Illustrations feature buildings from the neighborhood mixed with icons of local culture. For motorists, larger typography and visuals invite them to visit the neighborhood with an abundance of visuals.
“Color palette was inspired by the vibrant and sophisticated colors found in the neighborhood’s historic facades.
“If chosen, I would use additional engagement with the community to add places, things and events that residents value in their lives. Typically I do not illustrate people in my scenes but I am also open to exploring illustrating people using demographic data as a guide.”
James Billiter’s Concept Sketch: An Urban Oasis
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Jonathan Queen was raised in the rolling hills of Lexington, Kentucky. At age 20 he married a Cincinnati native and entered the University of Cincinnati’s college of DAAP, earning his BFA. There he began to develop his realistic technique by exploring traditional still life painting. Exhibiting his fine art professionally since 2003, in 2012, ArtWorks hired Queen to design and paint his first public work, a five story mural on the Kroger headquarters building in Cincinnati. Since then he was hired to paint 32 images for Carol Ann’s Carousel, an 8,000 square foot mural honoring Kenner toys, and several other private commissions. When Jonathan doesn’t have a brush in his hand you might see him with his nose in a book, or a skateboard under his feet.
“When I read the community involvement, the largest feedback included Historic, Architecture, Peaceful, Bright Colors and Natural Tones. My design honors the architectural themes of the area and creates a colorful, peaceful design for pedestrians and drivers alike. Foot traffic will read ‘EAST WALNUT HILLS’ in the buildings. It is possible to spotlight this feature with a gradient of color or flank the buildings with natural elements of flora and fauna.”
Jonathan Queen’s Concept Sketches
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Josh Stout is a self-taught artist from Cincinnati, OH. He currently runs Makeshift Mammoth, a creative agency that focuses on community building and neighborhood beautification.
In 2017, Joshua curated and managed the BLINK Cincinnati light parade and light-based installations. In 2019, he created a BLINK installation, entitled ‘Story Over Stigma,’ in partnership with the Lindner Center of Hope, designed to shine a light on mental health issues.
You may have seen some of Joshua’s murals in the tri-state area. His large-scale works include the ballerina hippos on 8th & Main Street in downtown Cincinnati, the giant bear playing pickleball in Greensburg, Indiana, and the pastel, abstract mural outside of the downtown Cincinnati Public Library.
While murals are his primary art form, he branches out into other art forms as well. Joshua built static and animatronic figures for Warner Bros. and Disney, created a 7-foot take-out box for Asian Food Fest, digitally illustrated Michael Keaton’s filmography, and led the efforts to bring the SkyStar Observation Wheels to the Banks.
“My design for the East Walnut Hills mural is titled, ‘When life gives you lemons…’ This pandemic has been a giant lemon for most of us, and now is the time to focus on making the ‘lemonade.’ To see how the community comes back stronger, together. With that said, a portion of my budget would go toward an art competition, where anyone could participate by creating their own piece of lemon artwork. Plaza Art gift cards would be awarded to the top three finishers.
“I aim to create something colorful, fun and inviting. I don’t just want this to be a billboard but something iconic, as well as something that can be enjoyed by everyone in the neighborhood. I chose the colors to not only stand out, but to complement the red maple tree directly behind the wall, as well as the ginkgo, crab apple, and plum trees that surround it both behind and in the intersection. I believe this piece will be very ‘Instagrammable’ and allow viewers to immediately recognize it as East Walnut Hills in the photos they see posted.”
Joshua Stout’s Concept Sketch: When Life Gives You Lemons…
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If you have any questions, please contact Ellen Stedtefeld at TaftWoodburnMural@gmail.com.
Thank you for your participation!
Mural Steering Committee Chair