‘ElectriCITY’ to flow throughout Hamilton during StreetSpark event this weekend

A public art event in Hamilton will be conducted at more than a dozen locations across the city this weekend. “

ElectriCITY,” an artist-led StreetSpark initiative, will involve painting utility boxes, electricity-themed portraits that will be painted on panels, and a 400-foot-long mural on the retaining wall near Spooky Nook Sports.

“People can watch the entire process of creating murals,” said StreetSpark program manager Jennifer Acus-Smith. “Or they can help. Either way, people can be involved. The artists aren’t locked away in a studio by themselves. It’s almost like a performance, where artists can engage with the community. That’s unique to our project.”

StreetSpark will present ElectriCITY from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Participants will gather at more than a dozen locations in and around the city. As part of the two-day event, artists will paint a dozen utility boxes around town, create a series of large mural panels in Journal Square and paint a 400-foot-long mural, titled Natural History, along the Great Miami River, near Spooky Nook (next to the Hamilton Power Plant.)

“StreetSpark has been incredibly successful over the past six years. You’ve seen all of our large-scale murals all over the city. You see the scaffolding go up, early in the summer, and our teams working up high, and out-wide, on these incredible, large murals,” said Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, executive director of the Fitton Center.

You can’t engage with the community while you’re working on scaffolding, he said.

“This year, there’s been a real focus on bringing them back down to ground level, or ground heighth. So, anybody of any age and ability is able to be involved with that. Obviously, we’re still professionally led, and professional artists will be there to lead these incredible designs, but we wanted to create an opportunity for the community to be involved, and have hands-on opportunities in making these murals,” MacKenzie-Thurley said.

There’s so much going on in downtown Hamilton that you can walk around to all of these different areas throughout Hamilton and be involved with this, he said.

Community members can grab a paint brush and receive instruction from one of the participating artists. DORA will be in effect, or people can purchase soft drinks and water. There will also be food trucks, and participating DJs, which will create a party-like, festive atmosphere.

StreetSpark is a public art program in partnership with the Fitton Center for Creative Arts, the City of Hamilton and the Hamilton Community Foundation. This is the first year for the ElectriCITY event. Funding for the project was provided by the City of Hamilton, the Hamilton Community Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council. In all, ElectriCITY represents about a $70,000 investment in public art.

“I think we’ve all seen how the arts can benefit things and how we can work together to make the functionality happen, but also want to improve the quality of life, and radiate that joy that we’re bringing to the City. It’s a good partnership,” Acus-Smith said.

During the initial call to artists last November, StreetSpark received 56 design submissions from 35 area artists, who hoped to be a part of ElectriCITY. Acus-Smith said there were 13 designs selected, including the 12 utility boxes and a mural design.

The weekend event will include three phases — painting 12 utility boxes, painting six panels at Journal Square (four of the panels will be portraits) and painting the 400-ft. retaining wall. Community members will have opportunities to paint, interact and chat with the participating artists, especially on the oversized panels and mural.

“The number people we can engage — artists, volunteers and spectators - during the painting portion is amazing,” said Acus-Smith. “Then, there are all the people who will see the finished work for years to come. We’re changing the face of the city for the better.”

Artist Brent Billingsley and his team will create portraits of people connected to the concept of electricity — ranging from founding father Ben Franklin to Hamilton native musician Roger Troutman of the band Zapp — on a series of six 4-foot-by-8-foot panels, for example. The finished portraits will be on display in the Fitton Center’s Community Gallery for the Season Launch event on Aug. 19.

The core, 400-ft. long mural team will be working throughout the month to complete the mural project. During the event, community members can come out and paint with them.

“The idea of seeing all these things being created at once, there’s just so much energy that’s going to come from that. The public will be able to walk around and see things created from start to finish,” said Acus-Smith. “I wanted to create an experience where there’s music playing, artists creating, and people walking around, seeing it all happen. I’m really looking forward to seeing that energy.”

In addition to painting opportunities both days of ElectriCITY, the Fitton Center will host a craft station near the Main Street Gazebo on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Children can design and create a shrinkable charm to wear as jewelry.

In case of rainfall, rain dates for ElectriCITY will be June 18-19. For more information go to Fittoncenter.org.

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