Since April, the billboard at North 4th Street and East 5th Avenue, the gateway to the Weinland Park neighborhood, has been home to original art reflecting the community, located just east of Ohio State’s campus. Local artists teamed up with Weinland Park youth in the R.I.S.E. Youth Program, a partnership of Boys & Girls Club of Columbus and Godman Guild Association, to create the artistic billboard designs. During a recent changeover from one design (by artist Stephanie Rond) to another, local artist Emily Westernhouser salvaged the vinyl material left, repurposing it in order to create tote bags for Weinland Park residents.
Emily Westenhouser holds a BFA from the Columbus College of Art & Design with a focus in Three-Dimensional Illustration and Sculpture. She began her journey as an educator at the Wexner Center and has now taught at organizations including Columbus Academy, the McConnell Arts Center, the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Children of the Future Program, and the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio. Her artwork features a love of drawing, found objects, sculpture, and sewing.
Stephanie Rond is a Columbus-based street artist whose colorful and feminist work can be seen on walls around cities, both inside and out. Stephanie attended Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ohio State. She is co-founder of Creative Arts of Women (CAW), founder of the website Women Street Artists, owns several galleries, and was recently invited to be a speaker at TEDx Columbus. We are honored to have partnered with Stephanie in education programs and community outreach initiatives; in addition to her recent involvement with the Weinland Park Billboard Project, they include her 2011 Pages artist residency (and continued role as an advisor to the program. In addition, her film Tiny Out Loud screened at our 2015 Ohio Shorts competition.
In the post below, Emily and Stephanie discuss their respective relationships with the Weinland Park community, as well as their shared interest in collaborative art making, and common interest in reusing objects.
Emily: I became acquainted with Weinland Park and the history of the neighborhood when I illustrated stories in the Weinland Park Story Book.
Illustration images: Emily Westenhouser, Weinland Park Story Book
Stephanie: The Weinland Park Billboard Project is my first opportunity to work with the Weinland Park community. I was interested in the project specifically to have an opportunity to work with the R.I.S.E Boys & Girls Club, as well as open up discussions of public space and our responsibility to it. I grew up on and around The Ohio State University campus, spending most of my time at Tuttle Park Recreation Center. As a young person I needed that safe space with encouraging adults to help me thrive. The Boys & Girls Club reminded me to reflect on my own experience, but more importantly that it’s a gift to be able to return the time back to other young people.
Emily: Many of my projects begin with an object that I reconstruct. Objects carry a history into the project that can be powerful. Anything we can do to divert waste from our landfills through repurposing, recycling, or reusing desperately needs to happen. In my own practice, repurposing materials is a necessity and a source of inspiration.
Stephanie: Since my street art deals with discussions of the impermanence, cutting up my piece to make new art in the form of bags made my heart sing. Repurposed is always better than the alternative of adding to the landfill.
Emily: Collaborative art projects serve to draw members of a community closer as participants discover and share common ground. They can serve as a powerful and creative method to give voice to the community and they can build a foundation for community pride that will carry far beyond the timeline of the project.
Stephanie: I can’t wait to see the bags around the city. It will be hard for me not to stop everyone I see with them and have a chat. Who knows, maybe I’ll do just that.
Photo (Ieft): Emily Westenhouser
Want to hear more from Stephanie? Catch her TEDx Columbus talk in this video: