Video: Shawn Dunwoody's new mural in Columbia City pays homage to a local entrepreneur

Conveying quality of life through the creative process and the telling of history is what muralist Shawn Dunwoody is doing in downtown Columbia City.

Dunwoody, from Rochester, New York, already has a mural in Northeast Indiana under his belt—the “Hello Fort Wayne” mural in the alley off Wayne Street between Harrison and Calhoun. His new mural in Columbia City for the Make It Your Own Mural Fest pays tribute to Shinzo Ohki, a Japanese immigrant who, after moving to Columbia City in the early 1900s, founded a local soy sauce business called the Shoyu Factory. It was one of the first fermented soy sauces produced in the United States.

Shawn Dunwoody's new mural in Columbia City for the Make It Your Own Mural Fest pays tribute to Shinzo Ohki a Japanese entrepreneur from the area.

From Sept. 8-18, 2020, the Make It Your Own Mural Fest is inviting artists from Northeast Indiana and around the nation to install 11 new, permanent murals in the cities of Fort Wayne, Columbia City, Warsaw, Garrett, Albion, Angola, LaGrange, Geneva, Bluffton, Huntington, and North Manchester.

The festival, which came out of a brainstorm session at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, is part of the group’s 11-county Make It Your Own branding initiative to attract attention from creatives and innovators looking for their next place to launch a venture or build a life.

Shawn Dunwoody works on a mural in downtown Columbia City.

Dunwoody’s mural, located across the street from the Whitley County Courthouse and near Ohki Alley (named for Shinzo Ohki) features Ohki, soy sauce, and cherry blossoms.

“It’s going to be large, big, and Instagrammable,” Dunwoody says. “It’s going to go to the top of the building.”

Shawn Dunwoody works on a mural in downtown Columbia City.

Prior to Dunwoody’s work, Columbia City had eight murals and, according to Chip Hill, Community Development Director for Columbia City, the excitement surrounding the Mural Fest mural is palpable. Citing the recent opening of Pickles Café, a downtown eatery, as well as the prospect of future downtown restaurants, Hill envisions people saying, “Go to the mural,” when arranging to meet up with friends in Columbia City.

“I think this will bring in folks from Fort Wayne, Goshen, and Warsaw,” Hill says. “It even spurred another artist in town to do another mural.”

Artists assist Shawn Dunwoody with a mural in downtown Columbia City.

As Dunwoody works in the Columbia City community during Mural Fest, he enjoys engaging with the locals who walk by. He takes interactions with community members so seriously that he will often change his design midstream if someone offers him a good suggestion. This is all part of his effort to forge connections with people who live in the communities where he makes art, he says.

Ultimately, he sees his murals as tools for uniting and peacemaking in cities.

“You have to have beauty during turmoil—beauty in times of unrest and distress,” he says.

That beauty can even come, in Dunwoody’s words, by seeing a “young child’s smile when they stroll by.”