Columbus artist Yaramis “Yara” Ramos Hernandez has been all smiles this week as she’s spent hours each day under the hot sun finishing a music-inspired mural on the bandshell along 27th Avenue in Frankfort Square.
Residents have likely noticed the mural coming to life in downtown Columbus thanks to its bright pops of color and painting of musical instruments such as a guitar that has been incorporated into the handrail. All said and done, the work will also feature instruments like bongos, a violin and a saxophone, among other things.
“This bandshell hosts a lot of music events, lots of cultural events. I thought about making music the protagonist, so I wanted to integrate music into the whole thing,” Ramos Hernandez said.
“I want it to be refreshing. I want it to be a fun experience. I didn’t want it to just be a painting. I want it to be something that you look at and refreshes you from your day.”
City Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen echoed that sentiment, further elaborating on Ramos Hernandez’s concept by noting the elements in the design aim to represent the diversity that makes up Columbus.
“The main goal according to Yara’s proposal was that anyone could identify with the mural regardless of age, gender or origin. It reflects the joy and colors of the music as one of the main elements in the activities developed in the area,” she said. “It brings the combination of warmth, with orange; and freshness, with blues, to create a contrast to catch the attention of the eye.”
Although the muralist recently got started, the project has been in the works for quite some time. Last summer, the City of Columbus issued a “Call for Art” and Ramos Hernandez’s work was selected after being reviewed by City staff and members of the Columbus Creative District committee. Learn about the City's efforts to become a certified creative district here.
“The back of the bandshell at Frankfort Square was in my mind a blank canvas that just screamed for a mural to be painted on it. The project was actually one of the first projects I worked on when I was hired for my position,” Van Iperen said.
“City staff and community members have been working toward creating a destination-type vibe in the downtown area and one of the ways to attract people to an area is through art or unique experiences. We are fortunate to have a wide variety of boutiques downtown and our eating establishments offer variety so by increasing programming and other points of interest in the area we are slowly building that momentum.”
Making the mural possible was a complete team effort as funding came via grants from the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, as well the Columbus Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Sherwin Williams donated up to 10 gallons of paint for the project, while the City of Columbus contributed in-kind and matching funds.
The native of Havana, Cuba, has had a love for art/design and music practically her entire life. She got a degree in design and has studied various forms of art, such as painting, throughout her career. She has been running her own business, Havana Stone Graphic Design Services, for quite some time and said she’s also the Central Community College-Columbus campus designer. But being able to share her work with the community was an opportunity she didn’t want to miss.
“I wanted my work to be displayed in the community, showing what we’re doing here …,” she said. “I want people to be proud of it.”
Van Iperen said Ramos Hernandez has a real gift, noting she has great respect for her as an artist and person.
“She really thinks about the space that her piece is going to be in and she tries to incorporate that. She’s really mindful of the space in the community and she wants to be representative of it,” Van Iperen said. “She wants people to really feel her art as well as see her art.”
Van Iperen said the primary goal of the project is to create an engaging experience for people coming to the downtown area. The only restriction the City put on the artwork was that the piece was of a nature that could be displayed for the enjoyment of a diverse, family-type audience.
Besides her love of the community, driving Ramos Hernandez’s work ethic is her family. She moved from the Dominican Republic 10 years ago to follow her brother here. Her sibling has since relocated, but she, her two daughters, her mother and significant other are all proud to call Columbus home.
“(My brother) was the only reason I came here, but now I’ve stayed because of the community,” she said, with a big smile. “Everything I do is trying to be as close as possible to God and then something for my mom to be proud of and the best possible reference for my daughters.”
The designer had hoped to have the mural completed by Memorial Day, but Mother Nature delayed her initial start time. That delay and some curveballs she has experienced as she’s gotten going now have her targeting a mid-June finish. It will join a collection of nearly a dozen murals already established throughout downtown Columbus.
Park Plaza has one mural on the upper backside of its building; there is mural that displays the word "Vibes" in the alley near the back entrance of First National Bank; Artzy Haven has two inside murals, while Treasures Boutique, Husker Bar and Dusters all have one interior mural each. There are murals in the works at the Columbus Innovation Center and the new Columbus Public Library inside the soon-to-be-open and voter-approved Columbus Community Building. There are other murals, such as the historical one across from Frankfort Square along 26th Avenue, and window art displays in the downtown district.
On May 24th, several residents stopped by and complimented Ramos Hernandez for her work. She graciously thanked each one, noting the opportunity to share her talent with Columbus means everything to her. She’s undoubtedly excited.
“I feel so blessed. It’s a privilege to be chosen for this display for the whole community,” she said. “It’s humbling.”