Xenia kids help paint the town


XENIA — Nevaeh Johnson could have opted to sit around this summer and do nothing.

But that’s not her style.

So the 17 year old Greene County Career Center junior and some of her peers decided to help spruce up the town. Johnson and several others helped acclaimed artists Morris Howard and BK Elias paint a large, colorful bicycle mural — spanning three stories — on the back of the building at 51 E. Main Street in downtown Xenia.

“Just getting outside and doing something, and doing something positive at that, it’s great,” Johnson said. “It’s very great. It’s to show the community that we are doing something and that we want to make a difference. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.”

The painting is a collaborative between building owner Jim Schmidt, tenant Billie Carrico, who owns 51 East Salon, the United Way of the Greater Dayton Area (Greene County Branch), the YouthMOVE program of Greene County Family and Children First, and the City of Xenia.

“I have been talking about these kinds of things for downtown since I ran for (city) council,” Carrico said. “Well, who needs to be in council. Unlike others, I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Using the community to come to together to get things done. It’s easier for people to just complain than to set out to solve the problem. Well I’m a problem solver.”

Enter Rebecca Cantrell, who works for the United Way.

“She knew my agenda, she believed in it and had the opportunity to help. When the United Way offered to do the mural, I jumped on it,” Carrico said. “I went to Jim asked his permission and of course being the historian and lover of our old downtown, he jumped on it. We want it to be a fun, comfortable downtown. Where citizens feel welcomed. I won’t stop.”

The project utilizes American Rescue Plan Act funding through the City of Xenia and the mural depicts the rich contribution of bicycles in both a historical and present context. Of equal significance is the positive impact of summer youth engagement with culturally enriched activities. A cadre of Xenia students in YouthMOVE — in-person activities and events organized for youth ages 12 to 18 — fine-tuned their artistic skill while connecting to peers, lead artists, and community members.

“I enjoy painting and helping,” said Courtney Hazelbaker, 13, an eighth grader at Warner Middle School. “It’s been pretty fun. I was pretty much encouraged to do this. (But) I think it’s pretty important because (we) get to do more things other than stay at home and be cooped up in the house.”

Taylor Toohey, also 13 and an eighth grader at Warner, learned how to paint by participating.

“(I wanted to) do a positive thing for the community,” she said.

Howard, who has contributed to several murals in Dayton, was happy to lend an artistic hand and is pleased with how the project went.

“They’ve been very very very helpful,” he said. “Some pretty focused kids. No issues. It’s been a blast. It’s always good for kids to see that they have alternatives, they have options to choose if they take them. Art is just one way of bridging that gap that youth can have with adults. That gives them a chance to be part of something. I told them every time that they come by this or somebody sees this they can feel proud that they had a part in it.”

Johnson is extremely pleased with the final product.

“It looks amazing,” she said. “It’s beyond amazing. I don’t have any words for it. I’m so flabbergasted. I’m very proud and I’m very happy.”

A second mural selection begins in early August on West Second Street with the fresco facing the downtown business district.

Reach Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

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