What began as a serendipitous chance encounter last summer resulted in an artful partnership that celebrates the natural beauty of Nelsonville, Ohio and its surrounding landmarks. Earlier this month, Adventure Pro Outdoors unveiled the first of several large-scale murals to grace the sides of its new building, designed and painted by traveling muralist, Erica Arndts. The mural features the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, Conkle’s Hollow, and Old Man’s Cave.

“I discovered Adventure Pro Outdoors last summer when I was taking my eight-year-old niece camping in Hocking Hills. We were supposed to be tent camping when Mother Nature had other plans,” said Arndts. “A storm came through and we had to find a place to stay where we were safe, and the only place we found was a B&B owned by Bernie and Jennifer Roell.” The couple own several properties in the area, including Adventure Pro Outdoors.

Arndts said the couple took notice of her car the following morning, which is painted to look like a spaceship, complete with aliens, galaxies, and constellations. “We started talking, I shared a few images of my mural work, and they said they were looking for an artist to paint a mural on the back of one of their properties.”

The ‘Welcome to Nelsonville’ mural was created to show off some of our favorite areas in the region.

For the Roells, the timing could not be more perfect. “We had just purchased the old Carter Lumber Building,” they said. “We fell in love with her artwork and we bounced ideas off one another to make our dream mural for our building.”

A few months later, she returned, working on the mural in between bouts of snow and ice.

“Bernie wanted something that would capture the essence of Nelsonville and the surrounding area. I did a lot of research about the area while Bernie sent me some pictures of all the different attractions, including the train, Conkle’s Hollow, Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave – all of the really cool spots in Hocking Hills,” said Arndts. “So once I had an idea of what he really wanted, I designed the image, we agreed on the design, and then I start painting!”

The Roells said they decided that covering Adventure Pro Outdoors with murals would draw people into Nelsonville and encourage them to get involved in the outdoor activities in the local area. “The ‘Welcome to Nelsonville’ mural was created to show off some of our favorite areas in the region.”

Arndts painted the entire mural in spray paint over the course of three weeks. “I do a sketch first, and then I just start spraying until it’s all done, until my hands fall off,” she laughed. This mural took her about 7-10 days to complete in total, but was spread out due to “good old Ohio weather.”

An Ohio native originally from the Dayton area, Arndts travels back and forth between her studio in Kettering, Ohio and Tulum, Mexico. “I don’t really have a style as a muralist, I kind of look at myself as a chameleon artist, I can mold myself to whatever my client wants.” When she’s painting for pleasure, she finds herself drawn to the jungle and jaguars, heavily influenced by her travels and exploring different cultures. “I really like to pay tribute to as many different cultures as I can – because there are so many! And because I have an affinity towards Mayan and Hispanic women, people of color, and people I feel should have a spotlight put on them.”

We couldn’t be more pleased with what she’s already done to transform our building and the future mural projects we have planned.

The ‘Welcome to Nelsonville’ mural is about 70 feet wide by 30 feet high and is the first of several that Arndts will be painting on the building. “We couldn’t be more pleased with what she’s already done to transform our building and the future mural projects we have planned,” said the Roells. “We have a lot of blank canvases at Adventure Pro Outdoors. We plan on painting two other walls that showcase all the outdoor activities that we specialize in and what makes the Hocking Hills and Wayne National Forest area worth visiting.”

Firm believers that everyone should go outside and play in the great outdoors, the Roells want to show people how much fun they can have in the Hocking Valley region. “Erica will be doing some more painting for us to help tie our businesses together,” they said. “Our business is tailored around outdoor activities – ATV riding, cabin rentals, and river trips located in the beautiful Hocking Hills and Wayne National Forest.”

The Roells anticipate opening their new storefront in March of this spring, with rental activities varying by season. “We’re most excited to bring something new, fun, and exciting to Nelsonville, and to support the community by bringing more jobs to the local area.”

The couple have been active in the tourism industry since 2013 when they launched 1st Choice Cabin Rentals. In 2015, they added Murray’s Landing Canoe & Kayak Livery to their business. Adventure Pro Outdoors complements their rental companies. “Throughout our time, we have fallen in love with helping bring people to the area because Nelsonville and the surrounding areas are absolutely beautiful.”

Adventure Pro Outdoors and the associated businesses are independently owned and operated by Bernie and Jennifer Roell. Jennifer grew up in the area and attended Hocking College and Bernie graduated from the Ohio University graduate program. Jennifer & Bernie’s children, Bernie III and Sarah, and Bernie’s III wife, Hannah, help run the businesses along with a great team of like-minded and driven individuals.

“Nelsonville has been our permanent home for the past ten years and we don’t plan on ever leaving. Nelsonville stole our hearts.”