PORTSMOUTH — This week’s high Ohio River waters drew many to the floodwalls to take in the sights, yet also delayed the work on another future public art sight.
Announced at the end of February, the Portsmouth Street Art Project had the blank wall on 1 Offnere St. ready for public artistic forms of expression. Everyone remains invited said PSAP Founder Ron Williams, but the flooding along the riverfront has delayed its start.
Now with increased community support, Williams feels like the project can fully come to its fruition. Art is fun for him, but in an altruistic sense it also comes down to providing a helping hand.
“I’m able to do more, so I want to be able to help other people in difficult situations or dealing with anything negative in their lives,” he said in a Friday phone interview. “I wanted to introduce them to a wall like this to be able to paint whatever they want, get into it if they’ve never done it before.”
Williams hopes this wall is just the beginning of PSAP’s and its parent organization Watch Me Grow Ohio’s mission of expanding public art in the city and surrounding area. He also plans on holding events following the pandemic’s end where proceeds will go to local charities and businesses.
As a lifetime and proud resident of Portsmouth, Williams wanted to provide opportunities closer to home for graffiti-style art. First taking on the art form in eighth grade, only on paper so as not to vandalize property, he came back to it later in life after seeing changing attitudes toward graffiti globally.
“Street art or graffiti doesn’t always have to be negative or destructive,” Williams said, where European countries are exhibiting this shift especially. “It can actually be more positive and it’s for everyone and anyone can do it.”
A skatepark in Waverly provided Williams and others the opportunity with an empty canvas, a moment that he described as being instantly hooked.
“I want more of this,” he said, recalling that day from a few years ago. “I don’t want to come up to Waverly every time to do it; I’d like to have something in Portsmouth.”
Beyond having a closer location, his hope is that PSAP’s walls will dispel much of the negative stigma surrounding the city. Williams believes a community-based approach such as this can help Portsmouth rise above its more pessimistic understanding.
He has always liked the floodwalls, but this project allows him to take an active role in displaying his work and others.
“I think this is the perfect time to step in and help out,” he said. “This place has so much potential and seeing everyone coming together and realizing that potential is something that I want to be part of too because I love this town.”
Seeing action taken by the city council who passed legislation last fall to create an Arts Commission and Arts District, Williams said he has liked the moves so far by the city. The groups work separately for now, yet the possibility exists that PSAP could be involved in the city plans.
“They have a great vision of what they’re wanting,” he said, describing plans from 2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon and 5th Ward Councilman Edwin Martell. “It’s a great idea to open more people to the art community. It might be like a slow process, but it will take off.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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