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Mural Magic

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It seems only fitting that the whimsical, Kilroy-style characters who regularly have inhabited Andy J. Miller’s cartoonesque art should find a home at Columbus’ kidscommons children’s museum, where exuberance and play are serious business.

A mural by Miller — about 10 feet high and 90 feet long — will feature bright, swirling colors, a range of his impish-oriented characters, and the inspiration of 12 young artists ages 7 to 12.

It will be unveiled Saturday.

The 27-year-old Columbus native joined forces with youngsters for two recent Saturday kidscommons workshops. In those, students drew their interpretations of his characters, with names such as Blobblepop and Nib and residing in his fictitious land of Nod. And then Miller began crafting images and figures from the students’ work for the oversized painting, the brainchild of kidscommons Executive Director Amy Kleinart.

“I definitely wanted the kids to know that they had some ownership of a piece of public art,” Miller said.

Kleinart conceived the idea of the mural months ago to enhance a blank wall. She proposed the possibility to Miller, who she realized was known for his fanciful creations. The Columbus Museum of Art and Design and the Columbus Area Arts Council also joined the effort.

“There’s definitely a lot to take in because it is so large,” Kleinart said of the piece. “So, I think something different will catch your eye each time you see it.”

As much as she loves the finished work, she is equally excited about one other element of the effort.

“Even more than the mural, maybe the most impressive part to me was how Andy worked with the children,” Kleinart said.

That included 9-year-old Abby Jacobi, who already had enrolled in previous kidscommons summer art camps and such.

“I thought it was fun and exciting,” the St. Peter’s Lutheran School fourth-grader said.

She drew an interpretation of a Nod character named Chooby.

“He looks sort of like a hotdog,” Abby said.

Mom Sara Jacobi, president of the kidscommons board, said enrolling her daughter in the workshops was “a no-brainer.”

“I think the biggest kick for her was being able to work with a real artist,” Jacobi said. “How often do our children get an opportunity like that?”

Miller, the father of

5-year-old Dorothy and 1-year-old Hugo, still thinks of himself as a big kid drawing sometimes amoeba-shaped, silly looking characters with the purpose of being able to discuss real emotions such as sadness. That partly explains why he is drawn to the art and storyline of Peanuts, highlighting the foibles of Charlie Brown.

“I’m drawn to extremes — and the fact that Charlie Brown’s depression sometimes is so extreme,” Miller said.

His past work includes “The Columbus Coloring Book,” highlighting local architectural masterpieces, and “The Indie Rock Coloring Book,” filled with mazes and pages relating to independent rock musicians. As a graphic artist by day, he’s serious and corporate enough to do work for clients from Sony to Google. In the wake of his latest effort, he’s thinking even bigger, in a manner of speaking.

“I wonder: ‘How do all of us find a way to pick up the (design) torch that (late industrialist) J. Irwin Miller laid down?” he asked. “I would love to be a part of that.”

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