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Mural Project Sparking ElectriCITY

Hamilton, Ohio – StreetSpark presents ElectriCITY June 11 and 12 at more than a dozen locations in and around the city. While this year’s event is the first of its kind, it is the seventh year Street Spark will create murals in Hamilton.

People can watch the entire process of creating murals,” said StreetSpark program manager Jennifer Acus-Smith. “Or they can help. Either way, people can be involved. (The artists) aren’t locked away in a studio by themselves. It’s almost like a performance; the artists can engage with the people. That’s unique to our project.”

Originated as a partnership between the Fitton Center and the of Hamilton in 2016, StreetSpark runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day as it transforms a dozen utility boxes around town and creates large mural panels in Journal Square. The community also can help paint a 400-foot mural titled Natural History next to the Hamilton Power Plant during event hours.

Funding for the project comes from the City of Hamilton, the Hamilton Community Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council. All told, ElectriCITY represents about a $70,000 investment in public art.

“The idea of the city as a partner is a great thing,” Acus-Smith said. “I’ve learned so much about how the city works and they’ve learned a lot about how art really benefits the city. They came to us with some of the sites this year, rather than us asking about this spot or that one. It’s really a collaboration now.”

StreetSpark received 56 design submissions from 35 area artists hoping to be part of the ElectriCITY show during the initial call to artists last November.

Acus-Smith assembled a committee of 10 to 15 artists, businesses and art appreciators to score submissions online. In March, she projected finalists’ work on the big screen in the Fitton Family Theater before the committee discussed and selected the eventual winning designs.

“A lot of the artists who were supporting other artists on mural projects in the past are heading up their own designs now,” Acus-Smith said. “Seeing that growth is my favorite part. We’re creating real-life opportunities for working artists.”

The weekend event unfolds in three phases.

First, the utility boxes.

StreetSpark expanded its scope six-fold from the two utility boxes painted in 2021 to 12 new murals coming this year along High and Main streets.

“The cool thing is that some of these artists haven’t really done murals before,” Acus-Smith said. “There was a lot of teaching in terms of how to bring these designs to scale.

“A lot of the artists responded to the different businesses in the areas where the utility boxes are for their inspiration. They are very site specific and really reflect that block, that part of town, in an interesting way.”

Second, Journal Square.

Artist Brent Billingsley and his team will create portraits of people connected to the concept of electricity – ranging from founding father Ben Franklin to Hamilton native musician Roger Troutman of the band Zapp – on a series of six 4-foot-by-8-foot panels.

“His portrait work is amazing,” Acus-Smith said. “He’s got all these people who are in some way associated with the idea of electricity and bringing them to life. And his portraits, people can fill them in in unique and different ways that will take the art in directions we might not have considered originally. That’s exciting.”

(The finished panels will be part of the 2022-23 Season Launch event at the Fitton Center Aug. 19.)

Finally, the monster. A 400-foot retaining wall sitting four feet high along the Great Miami River near Spooky Nook. That’s 1,600 square feet of art to create.

“It’s huge,” Acus-Smith said. “Physically, yes, but also in terms of opportunity. That’s one of the sites the city approached us to look at and make something. It’s in a place where there will be a lot of traffic and it needed something to help it look good. This is the perfect mix of our partnership; everyone gets something valuable.”

Acus-Smith likes the idea of big projects. She sees it in the growth trajectory of StreetSpark over the years.

“The number people we can engage – artists, volunteers and spectators - during the painting portion is amazing,” she said. “Then all the people who will see the finished work for years to come. We’re changing the face of the city for the better.”

In addition to painting opportunities both days of ElectriCITY, the Fitton Center hosts a craft station near the Main Street Gazebo Sunday. Children can design and create a shrinkable charm to wear as jewelry.

Rain dates for ElectriCITY are set for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and 19.

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.

Building Community Excellence through the Arts and Culture

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