Colorful murals fill windows of vacant Oxford buildings

Strolling through Uptown this summer reveals an artistic touch added to some of the windows of unoccupied storefronts thanks to a mural project initiated by Enjoy Oxford.

Artists were invited in May to submit ideas for the windows, and six were chosen to turn their ideas into public art pieces to liven up what would otherwise be boring windows with nothing behind them.

Alyse Capaccio is a 2012 Miami University graduate as a graphic design major who stayed in Oxford, is married and works as a web page designer at the college. She also has a freelance design business separate from her day job and has worked with Enjoy Oxford on various projects.

She saw the window mural project as a way to do something using paint.

“It was nice to not do something on a computer,” she said with a smile.

Jessica Greene, executive director of Enjoy Oxford, said the idea came out of several brainstorming sessions with her board and others looking for a way to improve the appearance of the business district.

She said they looked into large graphic designs they could put on the windows, but that proved too expensive.

“At a board retreat we wanted to do something. It was a top priority. Someone said, ‘What about paint?’ I researched windows and found lots of Christmas paintings,” Greene said.

Working with Council member Edna Southard and the recently-formed Public Art Commission of Oxford, they created language and guidelines for the invitation to artists and put out the request. Nine people applied and six were selected.

Katy Abbott learned of the window project and immediately challenged herself to apply her interest in Zentangle art to the largest surface she had ever attempted.

“The space at Bluetique was four times the size,” she said of the former store where her art now appears. “It intimidated me again but I drew on my experience.”

Greene said there were “funny little things” that came up with the project, like some buildings with the water turned off, a warning to not use black paint because the heat could cause glass to crack, use of the right brand of tempera paint, using a foam brush rather than bristles.

“This year was a learning experience,” she said. Planning to use what was learned in another effort. “My goal is to announce soon for November for winter scenes I hope will stay up until February.”

Capaccio said once she had the outline drawn on the window, some friends from work came to help apply the paint.

“Drawing the outline took the longest,” she said, adding some of the chipping problem affected the outline she had drawn for the design. “It took less paint than I expected, but I was able to return the unused paint.”

Capaccio said she had just completed an Oxford coloring book project and her design sought to highlight points of interest in the community.

“I’ve been drawing a lot of Oxford scenes lately. There are a lot of iconic locations. I get the most questions about the bee,” she said referring to a nod to the Langstroth bee legacy on the Miami campus in the upper right of the window. “Maybe, it will make people ask questions and learn more about Oxford.”

Amy Bartel has been an Oxford resident for just under two years and has done some window painting in the past, so the idea appealed to her. She used her love of the natural world as the inspiration for her series of window paintings at the vacant Follett’s Miami Coop Bookstore at High and Poplar streets.

“I am an avid naturalist and do outdoor things. I let that be my inspiration,” she said.

One of the windows shows a tree-lined hiking trail inspired by one of her favorite hiking locations, the Indian Creek MetroPark in Reily Twp.

Another window in the building has a ruby-throated hummingbird feeding. The color and natural appearance made it a good choice for her.

“I wanted to do something large-scale to fill the window with bold color,” she said. “They all seemed good images of summer.”

Abbott and her husband met as graduate students at Miami and they left the area after graduation but returned and are now teaching in the gerontology department.

Abbott had changed her design idea for the smaller window but with more window space for the second one, she went back to her original idea.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about color,” she said, finally settling on blue while the first window was full of bright contrasting colors.

Both projects took a weekend each and she had help from her parents, Joan and Phillip Harris, from Indiana, and her daughter, Mia, 11.

“I love the project, overall. I love the idea of beautification of vacant business locations,” she said.

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