Welcome to Free Space!

Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager

Nov 05, 2020

Artist Lisa McLymont is seen from behind, with a ladder beside her, paints the words "free space" in black on a white wall

When you enter the Wex’s lower lobby, the first thing you see of our community initiative Free Space is its title wall, a broad field of white broken by thick, friendly, black letters that wrap slightly around the wall’s edges. Associate curator Lucy Zimmerman and Jean Pitman, manager of the Wex’s community, youth, and family programs, worked with a Columbus artist to paint the wall treatment: Lisa McLymont.

As Zimmerman explains, “We typically work with Kendall Markley, our incredible graphic designer on staff, and our title walls are printed in vinyl. I got really excited about painting Free Space’s title rather than printing vinyl so there could be some element of the hand in it. Because Free Space is really about coproduction—inviting groups and individuals to use the space in whatever way suits their needs, sharing resources, creating opportunities for all to be involved. I saw this as another opportunity to work a bit differently and collaborate with someone in the community.”

“Jean, Dionne [Custer-Edwards, Director of Learning and Public Practice] and I put our heads together to brainstorm local artists who painted murals but also had a background in graphic design and typography,” she adds. “Lisa’s name came up immediately and was the perfect candidate for this. She was such a pleasure to work with!”

McLymont, a designer for CAPA by day, just wrapped a show of her paintings at Secret Studio. This week, she’s collaborating on a permanent public mural on 5th Ave. to launch the "Deliver Black Dreams" campaign in partnership with Maroon Arts Group and the Greater Columbus Arts Council, and recently she completed another mural at Danja Yoga in Olde Town East. McLymont’s been featured in GCAC’s “Art Makes Columbus” campaign and she worked on the most high-profile of the temporary murals to spring from the George Floyd protests, the panels covering the entrance to the Ohio Theatre, as well as the mural still on display on the ADAMH Board of Franklin County building on E. Broad St.

“We spoke with Lisa about finding a font that evoked traditional sign painting without being overly nostalgic,” Zimmerman says. I wanted the text to be really bold and graphic, to feel familiar and like something you’d see outside of the museum. Lisa presented us with a whole range of options, and Jean and I were immediately drawn to the same font.“

“I worked with their desire to use a ’60s Market-style font,” McLymont notes. “I went through and found a few that I believe fit the bill… Thankfully, they loved this one and we then played with the scale of it. At first, we were going to have it chopped off on a side to play with perspective, but then came to the idea of bending it in the space! I love the optical illusion that was created while projecting it onto the wall. A nice, classic and graphically simple paint job.”

Artist Lisa McLymont is seen from the side, standing on a blue electric lift, paints the words "free space" in black on a white wall

Photos: Lucy Zimmerman

“It’s as if Free Space resists containment to that one wall,” says Zimmerman. “There’s a little drip at the bottom of the P Lisa kept that I love—evidence that this was hand painted.”

“It was an honor to be invited to collaborate on this mural,” McLymont says. “Looking at in-progress photos of me working on it was impactful to me, as I was painting the word ‘FREE’ in Black paint on such a pristine wall, in a space that doesn't usually let artists do such a thing. The Wex has been a great support to the creative community in Columbus during the pandemic.”

“This is just one example of local artist and community presence in this space,” adds Zimmerman. “Anyone can submit images to be added to the Residue Wall that is being collaged by Learning and Public Practice’s Community Artist Residency Group. Youth under age 25 can submit one-minute silent videos responding to the world around them to be added to Community Reel. NO EVIL EYE has curated the current film program that screens daily and they’ve posted their manifesto, and covered the columns with fliers from local activist organizations including the Black, Queer, and Intersectional Collective, CPD out of CCS, Community Refuge & Immigration Services, and Central Ohio Freedom Fund. There are bulletin boards where anyone can post or share info, too!”