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Meet the Columbus Artists Behind 'The Spirit of the Chattahoochee Mural' on the Columbus RiverWalk

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

A new public mural entitled 'The Spirit of the Chattahoochee' will be dedicated on Friday morning, August 18 at 9:30 a.m. on the RiverWalk. The mural was commissioned through Dragonfly Trails and made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley. The grant, comprised entirely of non taxpayer dollars, allowed for sufficient funding to commission several local artists, the usage of high-quality, durable materials, and the ability to cover future maintenance needs.


The use of Columbus artists as the featured collaborators for the mural was incredibly important to Dragonfly Trails. "The goal with this project was to create opportunities for artists who choose to live, work, and/or raise a family in Columbus," said Executive Director Becca Zajac. "We wanted to showcase their work on a larger scale, allow them to collaborate to produce an iconic mural for our community, fairly compensate the artists for their work, and grow their skill sets and networks in the process."

The Spirit of the Chattahoochee mural.



Zajac worked with Mike Jones, a local designer and co-founder of Creative South Conference, to build a team of diverse, local artists to collaboratively create a design for the mural. First, they named local, professional muralist and Professor of Art at Andrew College, Chris Johnson, to lead the installation of the mural. Then, they named the rest of the artists who would participate in the project:

  • Harrison Mills – Senior Art Director at Outfront Media & Professional Graphic Designer

  • Joseph Melancon - Artist and Designer Working Under the Name Lost Rest

  • Mike Jones – Senior Brand Designer at Heyo & Co-Founder of Creative South Conference

  • Raven Henderson – Professional Illustrator & Volunteer Art Teacher at Clement Arts

  • Samantha Yoo – Award-Winning Designer & Assistant Professor of Art at Columbus State University

  • Vinh Huynh – Interdisciplinary Student Artist at Columbus State University

So, who are these local artists, and what was this experience like for them? What do they each hope this new mural will offer? *We corresponded with the artists to share a unique glimpse into each of their backgrounds, professions, and roles as artists in our community. Most importantly, we wanted to know how to continue supporting their work.


Read on to meet the artists behind 'The Spirit of the Chattahoochee' and where you can find more of their work throughout Columbus, Georgia!













Harrison Mills

Q: How did you get involved in this project? What work did you submit for consideration? A: I was invited by Mike Jones to be a part of the design team in coming up with ideas for the mural. I didn't submit any work for consideration, but Mike asked me to be a part of the team due to my work in the Out Of Home advertising industry. I work at OUTFRONT Media designing out of home advertisements, (billboards, bus shelters, wallscapes, etc) thus having some experience in working on large format displays and designs.

Q: What is your primary medium? What's your favorite independent work or project you've completed within the last year?

A: I work primarily in Photoshop for my day to job, so I guess digital is mostly the medium I work in. I'd have to say helping my daughter develop a cartoon character she created called, G.C. Grumpy Frog, has been about my favorite project I've worked on this past year.

Q: What does it mean to you to be a Columbus artist?

A: To be honest, I really can't consider myself as a Columbus artist. Most of my work has been within the graphic design field and photo-illustration. But, speaking as a Columbus, designer, I think we have a lot of great talent here that is underutilized and looked over. Perhaps even taken for granted at times. Personally, I would love to see that talent tapped into more.

Q: What has the process of working together on 'The Spirit of the Chattahoochee' mural been like for you?

A: The process for this mural design has been such a positive collaboration. Everyone wanted to focus on the goal of what would look best to fill that space, and everyone's contributions are evident in the final design. The team was certainly a very cohesive one that created an encouraging work environment. Personally, I think the finalized mural speaks to that.

Q: What do you hope this mural achieves?

A: I hope the mural is a redoubt of beauty for those that pass by it on the riverwalk or river. I hope it is a place where you can enjoy the story of the artwork and catch glimpses of how it represents this city. There are many photo ops in there as well that I know people are already having fun with.


Q: How can our audience best support you as a local artist? What are your social media handles and/or website? A: You can find me on Instagram at @mills_of_thrills and head to @gcgrumpyfrog to see my daughter's illustrations. Some of my work is also up on behance.net/HarrisonMills.


Q: What else would you like for our audience to know about you or this project specifically?

A: The frog in the mural was inspired by a pet toad of my daughter's.


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Vinh Huynh

Q: How did you get involved in this project? What work did you submit for consideration?

A: I am glad to get involved in this project. I was reached by Becca Zajac, the Executive Director of the Dragonfly Trail Network. She gathered local artists who were interested in this project and I was lucky to be one of them. I have worked with Dragonfly Trail before. I designed a mural on the 11th Street Underpass commissioned by Dragonfly Trail. It was painted Trudy Tran. Maybe because of previous experience working together, Becca trusted me to be involved in this massive project.

Q:What is your primary medium? What's your favorite independent work or project you've completed within the last year?

A: I consider myself an interdisciplinary artist. I bounce between mediums such as painting, printmaking, photography, collage, and creative writing. Currently, my most favorite medium is collaging because I love to curating imaging and combining different materials to recreate something new and interesting. Within last year, my most favorite independent work is a series of printmaking collage that still in process. The series is about queer identity, self-exploration, and transition into adulthood.

Q: What does it mean to you to be a Columbus artist?

I think that Columbus is a very good environment for artists to develop. I feel welcomed and empowered being an artist in Columbus. We have a great artistic community who support each other and I really enjoy it.

Q: What has the process of working together on the Spirit of the Chattahoochee Mural been like for you?

A: It has been a great experience working together for sure. Being the youngest among other experienced talents and creative, I feel honored to be involved. I have learned a lot about professionalism in the process which would benefit me in future career. People are so nice and empowering to each other. We are also open to feedbacks and willing to achieve better of this project, and it turned out successfully. This is the biggest project that I have ever involved and I am proud of everyone.

Q: What do you hope this mural achieves?

A: I hope this mural will spread good vibes to people in the community. I hope this mural can become a favorite location of people to come out, gather, and connect. Especially, after the years of pandemic, people were distant and disconnected. I hope this mural can reconnect people and promote wellness and health of our community.

Q: How can our audience best support you as a local artist? What are your social media handles and/or website?

A: During the process of painting, a lot of people walked by and praised us artists. That was really empowering and motivating for us. It would be nice if audience can follow us on social media and connect with us to show your support. That would mean a lot to us. My artist Instagram is @mr.vinh.art Q: What else would you like for our audience to know about you or this project specifically?

A: This project means a lot to me. I am an immigrant and have lived in Columbus for 6 years. I struggled to fit in the beginning. Being able to contribute to beautify the community and leaving a permanent mark on this public wall, it makes me feel welcomed and feel like I am home.


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Joseph Melancon

Q: How did you get involved in this project? What work did you submit for consideration?

A: The creative team for the mural design was assembled by Mike Jones, who has been and friend and mentor to me over the years. From what I gather, Mike was approached to handle the design for the mural and opted to gather a diverse group of local designers to collaborate on the project. I was fortunate to be one of those designers drafted to the team.

Mike is quite familiar with the works and capabilities of everyone he selected for the team, including my illustration and art practice. I believe the team was formed based on our diverse perspectives, design knowledge, and varying skill sets in the creative industry.


Q: What is your primary medium? What's your favorite independent work or project you've completed within the last year?

A: I'm an artist, illustrator, and designer and split my time doing freelance work, commissions, and personal work including fine art, consumer products (prints, apparel, and other merch), and narrative works. But, no matter what type of work I'm doing, drawing is my home base. Whether I'm developing a story, designing a logo, or working on a gallery piece, I'm always drawing. I use traditional drawing tools such as ink and brush, pencil, and other dry mediums, as well as digital art applications.

Recently, I self-published my first long form book: a non-traditional, wordless graphic novel titled The Lightkeeper. It's an early exploration in developing the world of a character I've been drawing for years—a nomadic, mystical character who uses a magic lantern to find his way through difficult situations, kind of like a "guiding light", I suppose. The story is somewhat enigmatic and open to interpretations, which have been fascinating to hear from readers. It's definitely the first of many books, as I have plans for other narrative works in the future, further building my own little multiverse of sorts, piece by piece.


Q: What does it mean to you to be a Columbus artist?

A: Being an artist in Columbus, to me, is inspiring. The community is brimming with talent and history and beauty, and there seem to be ever-increasing paths to gain support, to grow as an artist, and to feel connected to the people and places.

And, on the other hand, it also feels like a kind of frontier. There is a great deal of culture to experience, but it's not to an overwhelming degree like some cities might have. In my view, there a sense of freedom in that void, rather than a long-established "scene" that might steer an artist in a particular direction. So, opportunities often need to be created rather than taken, which makes room for one to truly carve their own path.

I love seeing how other creatives are approaching that circumstance, and forging their paths by collaborating with one another, starting businesses to help artists thrive, seeking new platforms to showcase work, getting together to improve their practices, and inventing all sorts of creative ways to combine art and community. The more I put myself out there as an artist, the more I see this kind of innovation, and this, too, inspires me.


Q: What has the process of working together on the Spirit of the Chattahoochee Mural been like for you?

A: I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to collaborate with these people, and am honored to be a part of such a significant work of art to pay tribute to our home. Not only have I learned a great deal from everyone involved, but I have gotten to know some really great folks who I now consider my comrades.


The process, to me, was very open, comfortable, and fulfilling. Everyone on the team was determined to put our heads together and make this project the best it could possibly be. I feel that everyone had equal shares of creative input, and everyone's ideas seemed to greatly improve one another's. By the end of the project, we created something that could not have been done without all of us, which I love.


And I learned a great deal more when it came to the installation lead by Chris Johnson. We are incredibly fortunate to have an artist of his caliber working on projects like this in our region, and learning about the process of installing a mural was eye-opening and encouraging. After this experience, I hope to seek more large scale and/or public art projects in the future!


Q: What do you hope this mural achieves?

A: I hope this mural provides this region with a sense of wonder, pride, and fun. There are many ways to engage with the piece: you can view it from a distance and see how it all connects, you can explore up close and try to find all the hidden images, you can simply enjoy the colors and forms, you can notice all the subtle and not-so-subtle references to our community's history and landscape, or you can simply spend some time in the space enjoying the view. I hope people from near and far will get a chance to enjoy the work in their own ways for a long time to come.


Q: How can our audience best support you as a local artist? What are your social media handles and/or website?

A: There are a lot of ways readers can support if they're so inclined, all of which are hugely appreciated! The simplest way is to follow and engage with me on my Instagram, @lostrest. There, I make announcements for events, products, artwork and other things. It's a good way to stay in the loop.


I also do sell products such as art prints, originals, stickers, patches, apparel, books, and other merch. I can sometimes be found at various markets, and I also have many of my items available on my website: lostrest.com. I also make and sell some of my wares at The Peach Shoppe & Co, a boutique store in downtown Columbus, at 900 Front Ave, Suite 212. I also design exclusive merch for that store which can only be found there, so it's a great place to check out in the city.


And the other main way to support would be to reach out with any art or design opportunities. If my work seems to be a good fit for a certain project, or for commission inquiries, please contact me at contact@lostrest.com.


Q: What else would you like for our audience to know about you or this project specifically?

A: I would just like to illustrate how grateful I am for the opportunity to make my living as an independent creative, and to be surrounded by such a welcoming community. This city and the people in it have been a wonderful support system for me, and I hope that this project serves them well.


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Samantha Yoo

Q: How did you get involved in this project? What work did you submit for consideration?

A: Becca Zajac, the Executive Director of Dragonfly Trails Network, reached out to me directly for this project. I feel privileged to have been invited and am excited to contribute.

Q: What is your primary medium? What's your favorite independent work or project you've completed within the last year?

A: I have been working as a designer for 20 years. During my career, I spent over 15 years working for a shoe company and graphic design firm based in NYC. My work has covered various areas of design, including publication and print design, as well as motion and advertising for major events like UGG, Timberland, Shoe Village, and non-profit organizations.

Q: What does it mean to you to be a Columbus artist?

A: I've been residing in Columbus for two years now, and it holds a special place in my heart. These past two years have been amazing as I've had the opportunity to connect with and become a member of the local community. Through this project, I have been able to display my artistic abilities and happily identify as a Columbus artist.

Q: What has the process of working together on the Spirit of the Chattahoochee Mural been like for you?

A: This group has been amazing since the beginning. We all share ideas, make intentional thumbnail sketches, discuss, and refine our project together. Their dedication to this project and community truly inspired me. I was inspired by their passion for this project and community.

Q: What do you hope this mural achieves?

A: It is my hope that this project will bring the Columbus community closer together and allow its residents to further embrace the essence and relaxing atmosphere of the Chattahoochee.


Q: How can our audience best support you as a local artist? What are your social media handles and/or website?

A: As a faculty member at Columbus State University, my goal is to enhance our graphic design program by seeking support and collaboration from the community to help our students grow in this field. (Learn more here: https://www.columbusstate.edu/art/)


As an educator, I aim to inspire my students to prioritize art and graphic design concepts that advocate for social responsibility. I encourage them to broaden their perspectives beyond their national and cultural backgrounds, and design works that cater to diverse audiences of the present-day. By undertaking such projects, my students are able to raise awareness and provide social commentary on various issues such as culture, race, poverty, and crime. It is my sincere hope that through working with the Columbus community, my students will acquire these valuable skills.


The best ways to connect with my personal work are via my website (www.samanthayoo.com) or on Instagram @samanthayoodesign.


Q: What else would you like for our audience to know about you or this project specifically?

A: I warmly welcome you to come and enjoy this experience!


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Christopher Johnson

Q: How did you get involved in this project? What work did you submit for consideration?

A: I was contacted by Becca Zajac with Dragonfly Trail Network in October 2022 about coordinating and painting the riverwalk mural. The image had been already created by a team of designers and they needed someone who had experience painting large scale public art to bring the idea to life. The people at Dragonfly Trails were familiar with some of my other large murals in Columbus and reached out to see if I was interested in partnering with them. Although I typically work alone, I was very excited at the chance to paint and coordinate with other local artists.


Q: What is your primary medium? What's your favorite independent work or project you've completed within the last year?

I have an MFA in Printmaking and I still consider wood carving and relief printing as my favorite art medium. I recently got the opportunity to host a steamroller print event at the Albany Museum of Art. At the event participants got to ink and print woodblocks onto t-shirts using a steamroller. It was rad! However, over the past seven years I have focussed primarily on painting murals. My favorite mural from this past year has got to be Backyard Birds at Highside Market. It is big, bold, colorful, playful, and is located in one of the coolest spots in Columbus.

Q: What does it mean to you to be a Columbus artist?

A: Columbus is a cool city with a lot of opportunities for artists. For me, Columbus is inspiring. I am inspired by the public and private groups who want to participate in the upswing of the arts. Columbus has a tremendously diverse population with diverse perspectives but everyone supports revitalization through the arts, community uplift, beautification efforts, etc. As an artist, many of these groups contact me to ask how I can help their community through my art. It is deeply meaningful to help in that regard. There is still so much more to do in Columbus--which helps me stay inspired.


Q: What has the process of working together on the Spirit of the Chattahoochee Mural been like for you?

A: It was great working with so many other Columbus artists. Many of the designers have an interest in pursuing mural paintings in the future. I had the opportunity to impart some of my mural wisdom on them. I typically do not work with other painters so it was a nice change to have some other folks on the wall with me.

Q: What do you hope this mural achieves?

A: I love that the mural is painted on terraces and that people can walk through the painting. I hope that people think of the painting as theirs and are inspired by the artistic interpretation of the river. I hope it inspires them to create, appreciate the natural beauty of the river, or to just enjoy looking at the art.

Q: How can our audience best support you as a local artist? What are your social media handles and/or website?

A: There are plenty of local designers, artists, bakers, painters, ceramicists, videographers, mc's, musicians, artisans, etc. living throughout Columbus. Support local artists by supporting local businesses and contacting local creatives. Market Days and Midland Market are spots to find local artists. There are also a number of other craft festivals around as well. Check them out! My handle is @chrisjmfa

Q: What else would you like for our audience to know about you or this project specifically?

A: This project was created over the course of three and a half weeks. During that time, I met a ton of people from Columbus (and beyond) who shared their thoughts on the project, their memories of the riverwalk, and their life stories with me. That was so special to me. People are eager to share and talk and be a part of our collective Columbus. Go out to the mural and meet someone. Believe me, someone wants to talk to you. I hope this mural becomes a place where people will come and share with one another.


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The Spirit of the Chattahoochee mural.


Want to donate to Dragonfly Trails' fund to bring more public art to Columbus, Georgia?

Make your contribution here or mail a check to Dragonfly Trails, P.O. Box 2666, Columbus, GA 31902.



*Not all artists were available for comment at the time of publication. We'll continue to update this feature to include as many as possible.



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