Columbus Youth and Artists Team Up to Introduce the Real Weinland Park

Posted October 6, 2015, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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First impres­sions mat­ter, and for Colum­bus’ Wein­land Park neigh­bor­hood, this rings all too true.

Wein­land Park is one of three com­mu­ni­ties where the Foun­da­tion is work­ing with a local ini­tia­tive com­mit­ted to improv­ing the well-being of kids and fam­i­lies. The urban com­mu­ni­ty of about 4,800 res­i­dents is next door to the Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty and just over a mile from down­town Columbus.

Until April 2015, it was also home to a high­ly vis­i­ble bill­board, right at its entrance and on a main thor­ough­fare for city com­muters, that gave passers­by a strong — and wrong — first impression.

It was adver­tis­ing that you are enter­ing a par­ty area of OSU,” recalled Jean Pit­man, who over­sees youth pro­grams at the university’s Wexn­er Cen­ter for the Arts.

The kids in the neigh­bor­hood were very aware of it,” artist and Wein­land Park res­i­dent John Grosvenor added. They knew the bill­board was sell­ing booze — and specif­i­cal­ly what kind of booze. They called it that big blue vod­ka ad.” 

The billboard’s unflat­ter­ing con­tent and exten­sive reach — with an esti­mat­ed annu­al audi­ence of 3 mil­lion — prompt­ed the res­i­dents to take action.

In ear­ly 2015, with sup­port from the Colum­bus Foun­da­tion, Ohio State and oth­ers, the neigh­bor­hood joined forces with a diverse group of local part­ners to draft new bill­board options. A group of 20 or so youths led the design process. These stu­dents were part of the R.I.S.E. Youth Club, which pro­vides after-school pro­gram­ming for mid­dle and high school stu­dents liv­ing in Wein­land Park. A team of pro­fes­sion­al artists — includ­ing local tal­ent like Grosvenor plus Wexn­er Cen­ter staff — helped bring the youths’ ideas to fruition. 

These stu­dent-artist col­lab­o­ra­tions yield­ed a ton of designs,” Pit­man said. Wein­land Park res­i­dents vot­ed on the designs, ulti­mate­ly select­ing four to display.

In April, the neigh­bor­hood unveiled its first com­mu­ni­ty-dri­ven bill­board. Each win­ning design has a three-month run, which trans­lates into a year of pos­i­tive, pow­er­ful first impres­sions. A new design was unveiled last month.

We specif­i­cal­ly chose designs that weren’t super sign like. They don’t say Wel­come to Wein­land Park,’ and that was delib­er­ate,” Pit­man said. There is no email or address or tele­phone num­ber. No one is being sold any­thing. But it just cre­ates this visu­al image that makes peo­ple pause and wonder.”

For res­i­dents, the dif­fer­ence is dra­mat­ic. There is a pal­pa­ble pride in the neigh­bor­hood that wasn’t here before,” Grosvenor. This was some­thing that our entire com­mu­ni­ty was involved with and got behind, and it feels real­ly good to be a part of this change.”

Two win­ning bill­board designs (the two top images), plus the orig­i­nal adver­tise­ment (bot­tom in the series), which Pit­man said made par­ents embarassed to walk down the street with their kids. 

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