Last April the Executive Director of Explore Licking County, Dan Moder, sent me a message and asked if I could take a conference call from the team in his office. He said they had (in his words) a crazy hair-brained idea and they wanted to know if I’d agree to be a part of it. The Explore Licking County Team, if you haven’t met them, is a genius power team that cooks up very cool experiences designed to promote tourism for Greater Licking County. Their efforts lead to putting this neck of the woods on the map in Ohio, hence stimulating economic growth and jobs. Talking with them always just “feels like home” to me.
Drowning in curiosity, I agreed to take the conference call. They proceeded to pitch what they referred to as their crazy idea. The concept they were then working on was for The Ohio Tourism Expo Day, May 8th, 2019, which was to be held on the Ohio Statehouse lawn. They asked if I could paint a specific side of the Statehouse and act as a “live artist” during the Expo. What occurred to me at the time was that the crazy part of the idea was not the idea itself, but that they thought it was ME that could do it :)
There is something about the ELC team that I would admittedly jump off a cliff for if they asked me to. I just trust their instincts that much. I was intimidated by painting a government building. Ya’ll know me for painting, fishies, mermaids, kitties, suns and you know, stuff that just can’t be real. They insisted that they completely wanted me to do this with my own spin on it. They emailed me some pics, and requested that I work on representing the west side of the building. And so it began.
The Ohio Tourism Expo Day 2019 came and went. Of all the crappy, rainy days we have in Ohio, somehow, by some miracle, May 8th, 2019 was a picture perfect day. I spent the day in a very inviting ELC booth with Dan, Carol, Garrett and Alex. Great company and really fun to do live art.
Upon conception of this idea, Dan Moder also explained to me that after the Expo they were going to inquire, through their network of associates, about having this painting given to Govern Mike DeWine as a gift from Licking County. I remember thinking….. WHAT a cool idea. I also remember thinking….. could that REALLY happen?
On July 17th, 2019 at 2PM my painting, inspired by the ELC team, “The Statehouse”, was indeed gifted to Governor Mike DeWine at the Governors Residence in Bexley, Ohio. Dan, Carol, Garrett, Alex, Mike Fornataro and myself were invited into the Governor’s dining room to sit with him and his assistants. Upon arrival, his people escorted us towards the front entrance and there he was. Huge smile, hand outstretched to meet us right on the front steps. He couldn’t have been more welcoming and gracious. Since my mind was sufficiently blown over it all, I’m not even sure how long we were even there. I’d say better part of 45 min. Dan, Mike and Carol discussed the happenings and tourism growth opportunities of Licking County with Governor DeWine and invited him to some of the cool things happening there. He said he loved the colors in my painting and pointed out the sun. I explained to him that since we were almost always struggling to get sun in Ohio, I felt it was helpful to just put one in almost every painting I do. We proceeded to photo ops under the expert direction of Garrett, the ELC official photographer, and said our good byes.
This was not my first time in the Governor's Residence. During the Celeste administration, I provided musical entertainment for seven years of his 8 years in office. It was a double blessing to be invited back for a different art form.
Visit over, Gayla giddy.
Thank you, Carol Tress, for introducing me to your beautiful co-workers. Thank you Carol, Dan, Garret, Alex and Mike for spending this once in a lifetime, unforgettable day with me. I am a better person and a better artist for having been invited into your orbit. You guys are just flat out too cool for school.
Thanks for reading.
"The Statehouse" will be available as a limited edition print from my website within 3 weeks.
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