The Olentangy Trail Mural Project


Every community has spaces that can be transformed from unloved and uninspired pass-throughs to points of neighborhood pride. If we can identify these spaces, and reimagine them, then we can enrich the lives of our residents and build a stronger community. This is the mindset behind the formation of the Harrison West Mural Project, a collective of Harrison West neighbors and friends, working in partnership with the Harrison West Society, to install a series of murals on and around the tunnel associated with State Route 315 on the Olentangy Trail in Harrison West.

For years, this location has been recognized as a missed opportunity. The space is heavily trafficked, with approximately 500,000 visitors per year. It is dynamic and visually interesting, a veritable maze of bridges and tunnels that playfully alter light and space. Yet it’s blank concrete sits unused, and chain-link fencing, masked graffiti, and trash from the nearby highway, lend an air of neglect. In addition, the 120 ft tunnel associated with this site feels oppressive and unsafe due to its gray interior and dim lighting.

The goal of this project is to transform this unique space into an art destination that celebrates the character of Harrison West, the talent of local artists, and the artistic legacy of the Short North. With a little creativity, this space has the potential be become one of the most memorable art installations in the city. And luckily for us, Columbus is exploding with the artistic talent that we need to transform this space. The time is now.

Harrison West Arts hopes to commission a team of local artists to install murals on both the exterior walls associated with the tunnel under 315 N, as well as the interior walls of the tunnel. Additional lighting will be installed in the tunnel. The area will be cleared of trash, and trees will be planted near the chain link fence on the west side of the trail in order to provide shade. These trees will also shield the area off from the highway above.

Meet Our Artist

Ashley D. Pierce

The Art of Ashley D. Pierce

Ashley D. Pierce is a Columbus based mixed media artist and muralist. Pierce
creates characters and scenes from what she describes as an invisible world
hidden just beneath a thin film of our reality. She creates work that causes the
viewer to pause and look closer both through technique and imagery. This unique
and narrative style invites and encourages the viewer to create their own story and
dialog with each piece.

Pierce’s unmistakable style is most often seen on wood panel. Using watercolor and allowing the grain to show through, she then carves into the wood with a Dremel tool, sometimes adding additional details with a wood burner. This offers an unexpected surprise that is not always noticed at first glance. Sculpture pieces often have hidden elements in them that have been inspired through public engagement and her mural work has ties to the environment and communities they were created for. Pierce not only creates visually successful works, but also creates them thoughtfully and with purpose.

From 2007 until June 2020 Pierce filled various roles including Studio Director, Marketing Director and Art Facilitator at a non-profit organization in Central Ohio serving adults with physical and developmental disabilities. The experience produced a unique perspective on how art benefits and connects people and Pierce is passionate about sharing that as a full time artist. Pierce’s work has been shown in exhibitions nationally including Chicago and New York. She was a featured artist in the show “New Horizons- Self Taught Art of the 20th Century” at the Hickory Museum of Art in North Carolina. She has also served as a juror for several art shows and volunteers with non-profit art galleries and organizations. Pierce is passionate about mentoring other artists and enjoys sharing her work and experience with others. You can learn more about her work here

Initial Art Concepts

Artist’s Statement:

The imagery created for this project is intended to spark one’s adventurous spirit and bring the viewer into a world of whimsy and imagination. The design takes advantage of the space and pre-existing structures, such as the tunnel, to enhance the viewing experience. Bright colors and bold lines break up the drab concrete and monotone landscape adding beauty and community pride. Plants, animals, and creatures are familiar yet otherworldly and welcome commuters as they travel through. The design encourages the viewer to create their own narrative and will surely be a space that is visited again and again, each time offering a new detail.

Preliminary Sketches for the Space

Proposed east side of the tunnel, facing the Olentangy:

Notes from the Artist: This sketch offers a rough outline of the concept for the East wall. The foliage on the bottom will have various types of leaves, flowers, and insects. The waterfall will be worked into the tunnel structure and detailed out with various blues. The rock will be placed in a way that best works with the main figure and the hills in the background may include additional elements such as mountains and tree lines. The tunnel guardian will have a glowing staff that is topped with an orb of light or crystal and the guardians steed will be fine tuned. The blue sky and space background will have a realistic quality to them and will be brought over to the other side of the waterfall along with the rock and plant elements.

Proposed west side of the tunnel, facing Olentangy River Road:

Option A featuring Bub and Sol

Option B featuring Sun Riders

Close-ups of individual elements

Color Palette

Notes from the Artist: A few things that you will have to use your imagination on are things like shading and highlights that are just too small to show on a really long and large mock up. Also these things will be big! Much bigger than they appear on the screen. The main things I wanted to focus on were color, motion and readability as well as a design that would appeal to everyone and all ages. I love that the area can be seen from the the street so I was strategic about getting the elements in a place that took advantage of that. I have found that when referring to a mural people either know exactly what is being referenced or they don’t so I wanted to make sure the design had key elements so everyone would know what you meant when you said “the Harrison West turtles”. I do hope the colors translate okay, I love bright bold colors and I know that was something important for everyone. The gradation into the night sky will be a dark purple which is common in my murals and is absolutely beautiful in person but doesn’t always translate as well on the screen.

Additional Considerations:

Every aspect of the environment has been taken into account with the design. This includes the viewing experience from different angles and different times of day/night. Views from walking, biking, and passing vehicles have also been considered, using safety as a guiding factor. The design also plays into the future possibility of expanding the artwork and will include elements beneficial to this goal.

The following are first round renderings of imagery for the space. We are seeking community feedback for this project, so please send any thoughts you may want to share to They will be passed on to the artist and factored into revisions before the artwork is finalized. Thank you!

Art Update: We are Holding a Vote!

Who better to decide neighborhood art than neighbors! Our fabulous artist Ash Pierce has now designed four pieces for us to choose from for the Olentangy Trail site. Please vote for your favorite here. Polls close this Sunday July 11 at 5:00 PM!

Art Update: Drum roll please…We have a winner!

Out of 391 votes #4 (below) took an impressive 49.6% of the vote. Ashley Pierce is currently taking the winning mockup to the next level in preparation for our meeting with the Columbus Arts Commission. More info coming soon!

Art Update: We have been approved!

As of July 21st, we’ve been officially approved by the Columbus Arts Commission! Thank you so much to everyone on the Commission, everyone at ODOT, and everyone at City of Columbus Bridges/Rec and Parks, who has helped us through this process. It has been an amazing ride so far and we couldn’t have done it without you. Four weeks and counting until install!

Art Update: Thank You and Some Changes

We want to extend the most heartfelt thank you to all of the City of Columbus Division of Infrastructure Management, Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, Ohio Department of Transportation – Columbus District 6, and Columbus Art Commission civil servants who have worked tirelessly to bring the Olentangy Trail Mural Project to life. They have generously allowed us to use their space, issued permits, helped to ensure the safety of trail users and artists, helped us learn how to run a project like this, and have cleared and cleaned the area ready for mural installation (below). We are especially grateful for their realization that the mural on the West side might interfere with highway traffic as it is currently configured (something that was not spotted a year ago when we first got approval!). This has caused a slight delay for the West side of the project, but it has made the project better and safer!

More info on the West side coming soon, and super excited to watch Ash D Pierce start work on the East side TODAY! Take a good look at what the area looks like now because it won’t look like that for too much longer!

Art Update: The East Side Mural is DONE!

We are so excited to announce that the East side of the mural is DONE! This has been a year in the making and so many people and organizations have played a role. We are beyond grateful to all of them including our artist, Ashley Pierce, for her insane creativity and drive, the many, many civil servants at the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, Columbus Division of Infrastructure Management, Columbus Department of Public Service, Columbus Art Commission, and Ohio Department of Transportation – Columbus District 6 who have worked tirelessly to prepare the site, ensure the safety of trail users, drivers, and our artist, and to guide us through the permitting and art installation process, and, of course, our donors, who provided the funding that allowed us to begin this process in the first place. To the Short North Foundation, The Columbus Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council, Jon Racster, M/I Homes, Inc., Thrive Companies, Donatos Pizza, Michael Brown, Derik Abbot, Richard Day, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Saucy Brew Works – Columbus, Harrison West Society, Joe Speakman, Cover My Meds, Rebecca Wolfe, Bruce Dooley, Joel Roby, Zeno’s, Nina West Foundation, Allison Miliken, Nick Green, Bob, Jeff, and Nicho, Sarah Solarik we are forever thankful and we can’t wait for you to see the mural in person!

Up next: The west side turtles!

Art Update: Shout-out to Volunteer and Neighbor Aaron Massey!

We would like to give a LONG overdue but exceptionally heartfelt shout-out to HWA volunteer and Harrison West neighbor Aaron Massey of Steel Valley Productions! Aaron took these stunning photos of Ash Pierce at work on the East side mural back in the fall, and we can’t thank him enough for capturing Ash and her piece so beautifully. Steel Valley Productions is a video production company that specializes in narrative fiction, commercial, and corporate video production, production, and post-production workflow. Aaron also does photography and drone video work. So cool! You can check out more of Aaron’s work (and hire him!) here.

Art Update: We Have New Art for the West Side!

You might remember WAY back in September that ODOT (thankfully!) spotted a potential safety hazard related to our original mural artwork for the west side of the tunnel (long story short, you could see part of the detail from the road if you were in a truck or RV, and that can cause an unwanted distraction on the highway). Well we now have an ODOT approved reimagining of the turtles for your enjoyment! This piece will be installed in June of 2022 on the west side of the Olentangy Trail tunnel. Can’t wait!