“It was doomed from day one.” So thought the designer and illustrator Dylan Menges of the bright purple octopus arm (grabbing a beer, of course) he and two friends painted on the side of the historic dive The Main Bar in 2016. The surface was stucco that s’ s. crumbled. And that was a demolition target. “
But they still painted the mural and it took longer than expected. This included main bar co-owner Jim Velio, who quickly agreed to their plan when proposed by Amy Turn Sharp, a fan of the joint and the colorful mix of patrons she saw coming and going, via her office. from the fifth floor. window on High Street. By day, Sharp works as a writer and strategist for the digital agency IBM iX; nights and weekends, she writes poetry and imagines ambitious creative projects, like a 20ft by 12ft mural on a waterhole that she and her colleagues loved.
Only at the Main Bar, Sharp says, would you see government officials, businessmen, lawyers, and someone just released from prison all drinking together. The Franklin County Courthouse is in the next block; a surety firm occupied the second floor.
Sadly, Menges’ doomsday prediction turned out to be correct. The main bar closed in February, killed in part by the pandemic but more by redevelopment, and the building is expected to be razed for use to be determined by owner Scott Schiff. Built in 1890 as the Hare and Corbin saloon, it was a resistance amid new construction in all directions. In 2015, it was placed on the Columbus Landmarks curatorial list of “most endangered buildings”.
Then came the fresco. When she pitched the idea to Velio, Sharp knew Menges was the perfect person to come up with it. They had collaborated before, on a large collage of hand-drawn expressions that decorate the offices of IBM iX. A former corporate design strategist, Menges had recently gone solo and was ready to seize any opportunity to develop his skills in public.
Working from a digital sketch Menges projected onto the wall, they coated drops of paint to cover the rough, crumbling surface. “We kept putting paint on it,” Menges explains. “I love the lesson of working with what you have. It reminded us that being disjointed is good.
It only took a few days. “We knew it would be beautiful from afar,” says Sharp. “But you didn’t want to get too close.”
Why an octopus? “Jim told us we could draw anything we wanted, so I knew it would be an animal that I love,” Menges explains. “Tentacles can be really meandering and fun.” He wanted it to address two audiences. For the drivers, there was the huge name and the bright color; for pedestrians there were smaller details, like the sailor called by a siren. The mural extended to a fence that surrounded a small patio, where Menges added a favorite line from one of Sharp’s poems: “Kiss me like a left hook.”
Velio, Menges said, was delighted. Neither of them thought he would be here five years later – a feat, even as demolition finally draws near. “There’s something incredibly satisfying about working outdoors, the idea that you add life to the neighborhood,” Menges says. “The thing held up like a champ.”
Editor’s Note: The Columbus Downtown Commission voted on June 22 to approve the demolition of the building, although owner Scott Schiff did not offer any specific redevelopment plans.