Painting the town: Sixth Street mural takes shape

designers, local students and community volunteers are close to finishing up a new asphalt mural downtown.

The artwork is located on Sixth Street between Washington and Franklin — on the street itself. It is part of a larger project by the Columbus Area Arts Council and Landscape, Art and Architecture (LAA) Office to develop a “Sixth Street Arts Alley.”

Lulu Loquidis with LAA Office said on-street drawing for the mural began last week after the street was cleaned by a pressure washing company. A primer was put down Thursday, and painting began Saturday. As of this Monday, the mural was about 95% done and just in need of a few touch-ups, said Daniel Martinez with LAA Office.

Local students from the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program have been involved with the project, including Jess Novitski and Priscilla Rocha, who Loquidis said have helped with planning and developing a set of drawings.

“I’ve been involved mostly on the implementation side,” said Novitski, who is in her third year. “…I got handed the design mostly done, and then it was just tweaking it so it would fit the actual dimensions of the site, getting everything out of imagination land.”

Novitski developed the full drawing set and did estimates on how much paint was needed, added Loquidis.

Both women said that several other Indiana University students and community volunteers have helped with the project, primarily in regards to painting. Martinez estimated that about 30 people showed up this past weekend to help paint the street.

Community response to the project has been “really positive,” he said.

“We’ve had a lot of folks that just kind of pass by and ask us what’s going on or are maybe seeing the project for the first time, and I think they’re excited about just seeing such a surprising and large-scale work of art on Sixth Street,” he added.

Loquidis likewise said that it has been “wonderful” to work with the community and see the support from stakeholders.

In addition to the asphalt mural, there are also plans to add a façade mural to the south wall of the Odd Fellows Building, which is located at 601 Washington St.

The artist for the wall mural is Nick Smith of Indianapolis, also known as “Nick Abstract.” According to Smith’s portfolio site, he is a colorblind contemporary artist who specializes in “urban abstraction.” Martinez said that Smith is scheduled to begin working on the façade mural this week — and could be there as early as today.

Overall, the arts alley project aims to “blur the boundaries between art and public space,” according to Loquidis. Conceptual visioning work on the project began in 2019.

“With the pandemic, it was sort of put on hold for a while, in addition to getting the funding to make it happen,” she explained.

The project is broken down into two phases. Phase I includes the entire ground mural and a group of small benches made to abstract the arts council’s logo and provide outdoor seating.

One of the reasons for the two-phase approach is fundraising, she said. They’ve been able to raise enough for components such as the mural, seating and planters. The next phase will include signage and a canopy structure.

The arts council plans to celebrate the completion of Phase I with an opening event on Sixth Street from 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 28. A TaColumbus food truck and beverages from Hog Molly Brewing Co. and Savory Swine will be at the event. There will be music and an opportunity to meet artists whose work is now displayed in the 411 Gallery.

“It’s going to be really wonderful to see this space completely transform into an urban plaza,” she said.

Martinez hopes that the space will be “loved and used for a while,” and Novitski also looks forward to seeing the project come to life.

“We did a test strip over at the workshop,” she said. “And I think, just seeing the little hint of what it will be like at the end — things are so different when you’re looking at them from the ground as opposed to from above. I’ve been staring at this pattern in plan for six months now. It’ll be really exciting to see what it looks like when I’m standing on it.”