Currently the Yellow Springs Arts Council is highlighting Yellow Springs tradition of public art via the Banner Festival, but murals have also been a Yellow Springs public art expression since the 1970s as shown in this newspaper article from the Xenia Gazette.issue of May 21, 1973.
How many of these murals have survived?
Bearing in mind that this article was written before the 1974 Xenia tornado, how many of those tempting blank walls in Xenia survived?
Did Jones and Kaye ever get their National Endowment of the Arts funding and continue to paint murals across America?
Yellow Springs Group offers unique murals
By RICH HEILAND
GAZETTE staff writer
Mike Jones and Melanie Kaye do strange things in the evening. Nights, too. Like the infamous Count Dracula, they prowl the Yellow Springs dark doing unusual deeds. But they do not inflict wounds upon the unsuspecting Yellow Springs populace; rather, they inflict drab buildings with paint.
It is not the “spray-paint art” that drives local constables, businessmen and insurance companies up walls every Halloween. It is real, honest-to-goodness 1970s style art. The pair, along with cohorts Michael Fajans and Tim Barrett, known about the village as the “Public Works Company,” paint murlas on otherwise drab and dreary walls.
The group first gained a flash of local notoriety last May when a large mkural mysteriously appeared on the wall of the Oddfellows Lodge on Xenia Ave. The mural showed the view that would meet one'[s eye if the Oddfellows Lodge were, in fact, not in the way.
Mike Jones remembers well the first effort that has led to four other wall murals around the village and started what the four hope will become a business.
“SOME GUY painted aa bill board over on Corry St.,” Jones recalled the other deay. “But the village fathers decided that it violated the sign ordinance and he had to take it down. The Oddfellows Lodge needed painting and we were approached about a mural, but we were afraid it might fall into the same category.
“We had another worry. As you know, there is a union on Antioch’s campus and they are supposed to do all of the painting on campus. Now, the Oddfellows Lodge is on college land. We knew that nobody could afford to pay them to do it.’
At this point Jones and company had to be sneaky.
“We got all of the paint and showed up on a Friday afternoon after the workers had gone home for the weekend. We knew we had to get the whole thing done by Monday,” Jones said. “We had done a regular painting and put it on a scale so that four inches on the painting equaled four feet on the wall. We gave everyone a section of the wall to do.”
“YEH,” ADDED Melanie. “We had over 40 people working on that and we went on all night.”
“By Saturday morning we had everything on except the tree leaves,” jones said. “By Monday we had it done. Mr. (Howard) Kahoe, the village manager, looked at it and he liked it. The only worry Plan Board and the village had was that some company would paint one to look like their product and call it pop art, liike a big soft drink bottle. But that hasn’t happened.”
Since then, the four have put on a mural on a wall down by Eddie’s Party Supplies showing the view one gets as he approaches the village on US 68 from Springfield. Another one has been put on the back wall of the Yellow Gulch Saloon on Xenia Ave. and another on Corry St., across from the Antioch power plant.
The four are currently putting one on the side wall of the Ehman Fire Equipment Disstributors on Corry St. this one shows a huge steam-driven locomotive coming into town. It also shows the old railroad depot that once stood where the firehouse parking lot now is on Corry St.
This one is where night work comes in, according to Melanie and Mike.
“We don’t do these freehand,” Melanie pointed out. “We take old pictures and alter them to get the right scale. Then we make a slide and come down here at night with a slide projector, put it on the wall, and outline it. That’s why we are out here at night.”
Jones admitted it has been cold work this month, but the style demands the suffering.
“I know you had ice on your windshields this morning,” he told Burnell Ehmann, owner of the business, last week. “I know because it was cold out here last night.”
But to the two, the suffering is worth the effort. They feel it livens up the walls and in the case of the mural showing the depot and train, it records a bit of the village’s history. Ehman said he had no objection to the project at all.
“I’ve seen it done on the West Coast and I’m all for it,” he said. “It’s better than bare walls and ugly signs. Besides, both my son and myself are railroad buffs, so I like the whole idea of the train and the depot.”
JONES SAID the four would like to branch out to other communities and he said they have tried to get into the Xenia area.
“We talked to a businessman in Xenia and we thought we just about had him convinced to let us paint his wall, but he changed his mind. It’s too bad,” Jones said, “but a lot of the businessmen in Xenia still seem conservative and hesitant to be the first business to do it.
“Xenia is ripe for this. It has a lot of bare walls that could be painted. If done right,l it can really add a lot to a downtown area, like it has in Dayton and Cincinnati.”
But the four may not have time to worry about Xenia, if their plans work out. They have applied to the National Endowment of the Arts for a grant that would allow them to travel from Greene County to the West Coast, stopping along the way to paint buildings.
“If we get this grant,” Jones said, “we would head west. When we see a building with a good wall, stop, ask the man if we can paint it, and it doesn’t cost him anything. It may seem strange, but the endowment is one area of federal funjding that has been increased instead of being cut back.”
But, regardless of whether it is Xenia or Davenport, Iowa, “Public Works” is going to be painting walls, night and day. So far, they say, that first critic hasn’t been heard from.
“Everyone seems to love it,” said Melanie as she went back to putting the finishing touches on the old railroad depot.