Beautifying a Yellow Springs construction space
By Tammy Newsom
This is a wall of many capers. A Young’s Dairy Jersey cow is treated to a strawberry waffle cone with sprinkles. The lunar module resurfaces in a splatter of metallic paint against soapstone. A bookcase of twisted tomes – “The Dork Tower” and “The Grape Gatsby” – are hung in an outdoor library. On the far left, a painted fence with a digitalized peephole reveals a black and white print of the Old Mills House. Steel-plated tubing and corded wire creates a virtual tributary for a lightning storm.
If visiting downtown Yellow Springs this summer to attend the myriad street fairs and events, one can admire these painted scenes, and more, along the Mills Park Fence Art Gallery project on the corner of Xenia Avenue and Limestone Street. These art panels were created to cover the safety fence surrounding the Mills Park Hotel construction site. The idea for this event was born when local developer and third generation Yellow Springs resident Jim Hammond deigned to cover the safety fence around the construction site of the future 28-room hotel and conference center while the project is being built.
“Safety fences are an eyesore,” Hammond said. “Sometimes there is graffiti.”
Inspired by a similar safety fence art project in New York, Hammond pitched the idea as a fundraiser to the owner of the Little Art Theatre, who then directed him the Yellow Springs Art Council (YSAC). YSAC is known for its eclectic events and community art shows around the village. Hammond built the fence and supplied the materials, while YSAC office manager Holly Underwood coordinated the artists and supplied the sponsors.
While YSAC survives on membership residuals, The Yellow Springs Community Foundation supplied a grant to the council for the project, which paid for Underwood’s time. Sponsors were then asked to fund $100 dollars for a four-by-four foot square on the fence. Eighty dollars of that money went to the artist, and the remainder to the Art Council.
“The council is all about the artist,” Underwood said. The community rallied to the challenge.
“About 50 artists and as many sponsors ended up contributing to the project,” Underwood said.
Artists were notified by an email blast, Facebook posts, and an ad and questionnaire in the Yellow Springs News. “The youngest artists are 14 and are graduating eighth graders from Antioch School,” Underwood said. “The oldest artist is in his 70s.”
According to Underwood, the project was met with such enthusiasm that before the art fence gallery was ever completed, YSAC had another offer to do fence space on Corry Street. “Some of that art will stay up indefinitely,” she said.
YSAC plans to keep the exhibit up through the October Street Fair. “As long as squares are still weathering well,” Underwood said. “That was the original idea. They have a couple coats of polyurethane and are rain-resistant.”
With the Art Wall in place, not only did Hammond succeed in making the construction site more attractive, but he has prepared detailed plans for the hotel as well.
Hammond had spent four years recreating the bucolic charm of the Grinnell Mill when he built the Grinnell Mill Bed and Breakfast on Bryan Street in 2006. He realized then the town had a shortage of housing space for visitors of Yellow Springs. So, Hammond discovered he had a couple of options when he bought the 23,000 square foot lot on Xenia and Limestone streets: he could either restore the existing house or he could build a hotel.
The Mills Park Hotel will reach completion in the summer of 2015, and in addition to the 28 rooms, the hotel will contain a restaurant café and bakery, a retail store and a banquet hall equipped to serve up to 150 people. Hammond’s belief is this new hotel will not only bring families together for an extended stay, but it will help the merchants in town.
“It will be a mixture of tourism and business conferencing,” Hammond said. “Yellow Springs needed conference space for banquets, weddings and art shows.”
Hammond shared his vision for the hotel with his daughter Katie, a hospitality major and culinary grad, who is assisting in the design work and will manage the restaurant upon completion. Katie was inspired by the southern-style architecture and old magnolia trees abundant in the Carolinas. Berea Tavern in Berea, Ky. was another favorite.
As a history buff, Hammond has endeavored to use the architecture in the spirit of the Mills House, named after the founder of Yellow Springs, William Mills. Mills Lawn School stands in its place today.
“He was the guy who got the railroad to come to town and Antioch University,” Hammond explained. The hotel will retain the Colonial-style architecture of the old Mills House, which was torn down in the 1970s.
Hammond has promised to reuse that artwork on the fence as the décor inside the hotel.
“The artwork and photos in the hotel will have historical significance,” Hammond said.
“The hotel will have a big front porch, similar to the one at Antioch School, where kids used to meet. Everything fits together historically.”
For more information about Mills Park Fence Art Gallery Project, please visit ysartscouncil.org. The YSAC Community Gallery and Multi-Arts Event Room is located on 111 Corry St. in Yellow Springs.
Reach DCP freelance writer Tammy Newsom at TammyNewsom@DaytonCityPaper.com.