Bird murals in Hamilton parks taking flight

Six new murals of birds that can be found locally are taking flight in Hamilton parks, which themselves in recent years have seen upgrades in the maintenance and upkeep they’ve been receiving.

Hamilton artist Jennifer Acus-Smith is creating the murals with the help of other local artists. Although she runs the area’s StreetSpark program, this mural-creation operation is separate from that. Four of six already are finished.

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After she created a mural on the Hamilton Parks Conservancy’s building downtown, she spoke with parks officials and decided to create more, “to help ‘brand’ the parks,” she said. “So they’re all in the same sort-of style as the original one, and I am working with different artists from Miami University.”

She specifically wanted to hire artists who didn’t have much mural-creating experience to help them learn the process. “So that’s been really fun.”

“They’re all Ohio birds,” she said. “The idea behind that is in the future, we want to have some kind of interactive activities that families can do.”

Scavenger hunts would be one possibility, to give families incentives to visit parks that are new to them.

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Here’s where the murals are going, most near splash pads, where children play:

  • A great blue heron mural is in Joyce Park, because that's closest to the Great Miami River, where those water-friendly birds tend to dwell.
  • A pair of cardinals — Ohio's state bird — is at the LJ Smith Park and spray-ground in the North End, off Joe Nuxhall Boulevard.
  • A great horned owl is at Millikin Woods.
  • A Cooper's hawk is at Crawford Woods Park.
  • A montage of baby and adult robins will be at Jim Grimm Park.
  • A bald eagle will be at Veterans Park, where the birds often are sighted.

Conservancy Director Steve Timmer said the bird murals are bringing further happiness for families when they visit the parks.

“It enhances everything we’re doing,” Timmer said.

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Acus-Smith said the parks have seen significant upgrades under Timmer and the conservancy: “With Steve running the parks, there have been such positive changes,” she said. “Those parks have really improved, they’re really beautiful, and people are so happy to be there.”

Funding was provided by a private donor who wishes to remain anonymous. Each mural costs about $1,500 to create, she said.

Murals are fun to create, because, “we get so many nice comments from people as they’re playing in the park,” Acus-Smith said. “Just the thought that there will be families that grow up with that in their play space is a really good feeling.”

“And some people came every day to watch the process,” she said. “Something about a mural feels a little bit like a performance, because you always sort-of have an audience, and that’s part of the experience.”

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