A mural of vibrant, colorful birds perched on trees and flying on the façade of the Hamilton Parks Conservancy has sparked a new arts movement that will bring more murals to buildings in Hamilton in 2016.

Known as StreetSpark, the program, managed by Jenn Acus-Smith, director of Education and Outreach at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts, will have a selection committee choose the designs and artists to paint murals on three downtown buildings this year.

Acus-Smith, who designed and helped paint the mural on the Hamilton Parks Conservancy façade in the summer of 2015, says that mural was the impetus of the StreetSpark program.

She says a city committee was discussing a program to paint murals on buildings at about the same time she and a team of artists were painting the mural on the Hamilton Parks Conservancy façade at 106 N. Second St.

The mural was such a hit when it was finished that the StreetSpark program was approved. “People were really excited about [the mural] in the community and so we decided to develop a full program based off that.”

Acus-Smith says she hopes the program is expanded to more buildings in the future. “We’d love to expand if the funding comes about,” she says. “We’ve applied for some different grants and things so depending on how that goes we’ll be able to do more.”

StreetSpark, which is a partnership between the city of Hamilton and the Fitton Center for Creative Arts, is designed to further the arts identity in the city and energize the streetscape, create awareness of the arts, and spark new development in Hamilton.

Public art projects such as StreetSpark are just part of what the Fitton Center for Creative Arts is about. The Fitton Center’s mission is to build community excellence though the arts and culture, says Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, executive director of the center.

“We are here to serve the people of greater Hamilton in a wide variety of artistic endeavors,” says MacKenzie-Thurley. Some of those endeavors include live theater and musical performances in the Fitton Center’s stage and ballroom, art exhibits, informative luncheons and a large number of educational programs such as music, pottery, painting, drawing, yoga and photography.

“We also have a community outreach department as well, so we’re working in community centers and Boys and Girls clubs and schools throughout Hamilton and Butler County serving those who are unable to be here at the center,” says MacKenzie-Thurley. 

The community is embracing the mission of the Fitton Center, he says. Membership is up about 55 percent, to about 800 members, says MacKenzie-Thurley. And the center wants even more members.

“We’re looking to grow and grow. We want people engaged,” he says. “This is their art center. It’s not a public building in terms of it’s owned by the city, or the state but it is for the public. And we want them to use it.”

The center, located at 101 S. Monument Ave. in downtown Hamilton, opened in 1993. It was a gift to the community from the Bicentennial Commission to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the city of Hamilton.