By Clare Proctor

The Columbus Dispatch

Posted Aug 10, 2019 at 4:35 PM Updated Aug 10, 2019 at 4:53 PM

Tanya Kennedy rolled up her business suit in her bag and swapped it out for an old gray T-shirt, just in case any of the yellow paint meant for the canvas on the table in front of her got on her clothes.

Kennedy, who works for Matrix Group International in Washington, D.C., is one of about 5,000 people attending the American Society of Association Executives 2019 Annual Meeting & Exposition at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. But between the keynote speakers and breakout discussions, attendees have the chance to give back to the city through the “Leave Your Mark” Community Mural Painting.

“This is so easy. Anyone can do this,” Kennedy said. “It’ll be fun to see what it ends up looking like and knowing I painted the windows.”

The mural, which will be displayed at the Reeb Avenue Center on the South Side, portrays two men embracing in the foreground, with other people and the building filling the background. Local artist Jeremy Jarvis designed the mural, which was broken up into eight separate panels to be painted over the course of ASAE.

Jarvis asked himself what should represent the heart of the Reeb Avenue Center, which houses 13 nonprofits geared toward adult and youth education and employment.

Love was the answer.

“What I came up with was a simple hug,” he said.

The mural will be completed as a giant paint-by-numbers, allowing attendees to pick a color and paint the corresponding sections of the canvas panels.

Jane Grote Abell, co-founder of the Reeb Avenue Center and a member of the family who founded Donatos Pizza, said the mural conveys to the South Side neighborhood that people outside of Columbus care about the community as well.

“This building is an example of the community coming together, collaborating,” Grote Abell said. “When people come together, we all thrive.”

Grote Abell is excited about the artist’s design for the mural, which she said highlights the neighborhood’s diversity.

By the time Brian Buff made it to the mural painting, he had already crossed two Columbus sites off his personal bucket list: the Jubilee Museum, which celebrates Catholic culture, and Huntington Park, home of the Columbus Clippers.

During his first time visiting Columbus, Buff — who works for Capitol Hill Management Service in Albany, New York, and sits on the Empire State Society of Association Executives — said he was struck by the city’s energy and hospitality.

“I intentionally came in early Friday to explore the city,” Buff said. “It’s full of gems.”

Taking time to paint the mural felt like a “worthy donation” to a city he’s discovered to be an “incredible place,” Buff said.

Attendees can paint again Tuesday before Jarvis touches up the remaining pieces. The Reeb Avenue Center’s art commission, made up of tenants and business owners in the center, will decide where in the building to display the mural, which will be unveiled at one of the center’s upcoming community meetings.

Other ASAE community service-oriented events Saturday included a tour of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, as well as a bowling outing to raise funds for drug addiction recovery.