Local Artist Helps Public Art Movement Takes Root

Two new murals have popped up in the Mid-Ohio Valley this spring adding life and vibrancy to the community. Designed by local artist Alix Northrup with bold, floral elements, both murals are part of a growing movement across the region to install more local art in public places. From Downtown PKB’s Selfie Stations and ArtBeat Studio’s lamppost sculptures to the collaborative alleyway mural coordinated by Marietta Main Street last fall, the Mid-Ohio Valley’s art scene is increasingly more visible in all the right ways.

“It’s a bit surreal to see view my art in larger than life sizes!” said Northup, a skilled graphic designer who’s Instagram account features her hand-lettered designs on book covers, leather jackets – even coloring book pages.

“I have always loved large scale art and the feeling it can create within a space and community, so to see my pieces in this type of format has been very fulfilling,” she said. “It’s hard to put into words the feeling I get from being able to contribute something like this to the town I’ve grown up in, it feels very full circle in a way.”

Alix Northup in front of her mural on the MOVE Building in Marietta (Sarah Arnold)

About the Artist

Northrup has been in the graphic design arena for over 15 years, creating identities, branding, and all forms of print and visual communication. She’s recently been experimenting and developing her hand-lettering and illustration skills with more focus, initially as a creative outlet outside of paid work.

“I started posting on Instagram and within a year, I was getting requests for work related to the pieces I was posting,” she said. “Some of these requests came from major publishers and brands and that opened my mind to the possibility of doing illustration and hand-lettering related work full-time.”

I try to inject as much personality into my pieces as I can.

Alix Northrup

When the pandemic hit, Northrup was thrust into freelance work out of necessity.

“Luckily, my freelance work picked up rather quickly and I’ve had the opportunity to work on a variety of really fun projects over the winter.” Recent projects include the Park Series of t-shirts launched by Clutch MOV and Wit & Whimzy this spring and as well as her own line of apparel.

Alix taking a break from painting the mural on Sandy’s Florist (Keri Seevers)

While Northrup describers her style as energetic and bold with a combination of textures, details, and depth, she said she tries to cater her stylistic approach based on the tone and message of each project.

“Through a mix of dynamic compositions, playful illustrations, colorful pallets, and diverse letting styles, I try to inject as much personality into my pieces as I can while still remaining true to the overarching message.”

Between freelance projects, Northrup found time to help launch a collaborative project with fellow female letterers: the Lettering Ladies Instagram account. What began as an Instagram friendship blossomed into a collaborative project inspired by each artist’s unique style and common need for community. A main goal of the group is to create a space to support and generate collaboration between creatives.

The MOVE Building mural was designed in partnership with Marietta Main Street’s Public Art Committee (Sarah Arnold)

Northrup is also an active member of the Marietta Main Street Public Art Committee, a group that has remained productive throughout the pandemic in an effort to increase access to public art in downtown Marietta. In September, Northrup helped coordinate the collaborative alleyway mural downtown and came up with the design for the primary wall.

Now, Northrup is celebrating the recent installation of two brand new murals: one on the side of Sandy’s Florist in Belpre, and the other on the side of Mid-Ohio Valley Employment in downtown Marietta.

Belpre in Bloom

Dodging April showers, Northrup began painting the long wall on Sandy’s Florist in Belpre with help from Jordana Bungard towards the end of last month. She said a fellow college classmate connected her with owner Joe Flaherty, who had been trying to find a local muralist for some time.

The completed mural on Sandy’s Florist in Belpre (Keri Seevers)

“I’m so thankful my name was mentioned, it was a joy to work with Joe and the team at Sandy’s Florist and I’m so happy with how it turned out,” said Northrup.

The mural, depicting brightly colored flora including lilies, roses, daisies, marigolds, and sunflowers against a backdrop of slate gray, is eye-catching and easy to see from Route 7, turning many heads on their daily commutes.

The amount of people who dropped by to tell me how lovely the piece I was painting was or how much it brightened up the area was overwhelming.

Alix Northrup

Bungard, to who helped Northrup block out and paint the design, said she first started discussing a collaboration of this kind in 2019. The two artists met up to talk about how they might work together when Northrup mentioned a desire to do more mural work in the area. Two years and a pandemic later, their dream was finally realized.

Bungard said she doesn’t believe in competition with other artists. “I am always happy to share my experience and ‘know-how’, and Alix has treated me the same – which makes it so much easier to work together! You are only in competition with yourself, to make yourself a better artist, and create the best work possible,” she said. “This attitude – kindness – allows you to share and help each other grow. When you are not caught up in your own ego, you can visualize goals and collaborate and make community happen!”

The mural’s impact was immediate. Both artists said the response from the community was entirely positive, with passersby stopping to share their excitement.

“There are so many benefits to public art that I could go on and on about but we witnessed it firsthand while installing this mural in Belpre,” said Northrup. “The amount of people who dropped by to tell me how lovely the piece I was painting was or how much it brightened up the area was overwhelming. From the school bus driver, to the local radio station, to the kids that would stop by and be amazed that I created something like the piece I was painting, the positive impact on the neighborhood was clear.”

Northrup said she’s encouraged by how projects like this one are being embraced in the region and she’s excited to see how the community will continue to progress and grow in the coming years.

“As a lifelong resident, I’ve always believed in the potential our community holds and it makes me very happy to see local residents, especially the younger generation, continually working and participating in efforts to improve all aspects of it.”

Main Street Murals

Just up the river in Marietta, another mural of Northup’s design is up for all to see. Reading “Rooted in Kindness, Good Things Grow Here,” the mural is prominently displayed on the north-facing wall of the MOV Employment Building on the corner of Front and Butler Streets. Designed by Northrup in partnership with the Marietta Main Street Public Art Committee, the mural was installed by Jordana Bungard and Jerome Griffin over a ten hour period.

With all that’s happened in 2020 and moving into 2021, we wanted this mural to remind our community of who we are. We have roots, our history matters, we celebrate kindness.

Cristie Thomas

The mural was commissioned by the Public Art Committee, of which Northrup is a member, in an effort to install a downtown mural with an uplifting message that was connected to the Marietta community, but could be appreciated by a broader audience.

The mural is located on the corner of Front & Butler Streets (Sarah Arnold)

“We brainstormed for quite a bit – there was a lot of whiteboard action, following of ideas down rabbit holes, and lots of curves along the way but ultimately we landed on the design as folks see it installed downtown today,” said Cristie Thomas, Executive Director of Marietta Main Street.

“With all that’s happened in 2020 and moving into 2021, we wanted this mural to remind our community of who we are. We have roots, our history matters, we celebrate kindness, and good things surely do come from Marietta,” said Thomas. “I personally hope it serves as a pick-me-up to folks who pass by, to focus on kindness and celebrate the good, and I hope for tourists that they experience a town that – well, simply put – a town that cares.”

Northrup said her aim with this mural was to create a feeling of positivity and a sense of pride for the town. “I really wanted it to reflect the community through both the message and the symbolic nature of the floral illustration elements,” she said. “Dandelions can hold a lot of meaning; the concept of making wishes by blowing on their seeds is nostalgic and creates a feeling of hope and joy and additionally they can represent perseverance prosperity and tenacity since they can thrive in difficult conditions. Mostly though, I just hope it creates a bright spot for downtown businesses, locals and tourists to enjoy.”

Bungard said finishing the mural that Alix designed was a great moment, recalling the first time she and Alix met up when Alix said she would like to do a mural. “Now we’ve finished two in one month!”

Starting at 8:00 am, Bungard and Griffin installed the mural panel by panel, wrapping up around 6:00 pm that evening. “It was a beautiful day working with my great friend Jerome,” she said, “and having people walk by and express their excitement and interest in the project. The art really jumps off the wall at the corner and brings liveliness and a great message!”

Jordana Bungard installed the mural with help from Jerome Griffin (Sarah Arnold)

While to many the mural may seem to have appeared overnight, Thomas said the process began almost an entire year ago. “From selecting an artist to confirming support from the property owner of the Mid-Ohio Valley Employment building to identifying the direction the design should go and then Alix producing an incredible mural for us to install, the process was probably a few months of ideation but took nearly a whole year from start to finish,” she said.

“And, as with any project, we needed to identify funding,” said Thomas. “We are endlessly grateful to the Marietta Community Foundation for their continued support and specifically, for funding a significant portion of this mural.”

Thomas also acknowledged the contribution of local residents who have donated to Marietta Main Street in support of public art through purchasing t-shirts during May’s First Friday event and making direct donations. “This mural was able to come to life thanks to donors who funded it,” she said, adding that more murals were in the works for downtown.

I’m such a big fan of Alix’s art and we’re really excited to be able to showcase her beautiful work in the heart of downtown.

Bobby Rosenstock

Local artist Bobby Rosenstock, Chair of the Public Art Committee and owner of Just A Jar Design Press, said he’s excited to see the mural installed after more than a year of behind-the-scenes work.

“It’s such a public corner and we’re really hoping everyone loves the beautiful art and uplifting message. I’m such a big fan of Alix’s art and we’re really excited to be able to showcase her beautiful work in the heart of downtown,” said Rosenstock.

Rosenstock hopes that through the Public Art Committee, they can continue to uplift local artists. “The art scene in Marietta seems to be thriving. There are so many great established and up-and-coming artists living in the MOV and we’re hoping that the Public Art Committee can showcase some of our local talent,” he said. “It’s been a tough year, but going forward we hope to host more public events that can bring artists from the community together and build off of the current momentum.”

Good things certainly are growing in Marietta and across the Mid-Ohio Valley.

“Good things are happening in Marietta and it’s not hard to see – we want folks to see our town with fresh eyes, to pay attention to the hard work of so many locals who every day contribute to the positive growth of our city, and give energy to the good,” said Thomas. “There’s so many wonderful things in the works across our town – we hope this mural encourages folks to shine a brighter light on those things.”