This mural was painted to honor artist Walt Neil by those who wish to see his legacy continued. It is a recreation of one of his paintings.
Walt “Wali” Neil was an Ohio mural artist known for his murals in Columbus and Cleveland. At one point, he was one of the areaʼs most prominent muralists, especially on the East and South sides of Columbus.
His work is recognizable and noted as surrealist and ethnic portraits. His work is often vibrant and colorful, utilizing themes of Black culture and the ties between nature and human condition. He produced murals in dozens of locations, often setting up in spaces to brighten neighborhoods. These works became part of the culture and heritage of the locations in which they were painted. Walt fed his own soul with his offerings. His gifts were freely shared in the community and a lot of times with no monetary compensation. There were lots of communities and organizations with which he shared his talents.
Waltʼs work appears in the King Arts Complex in Columbus and on the East and South sides of Columbus throughout neighborhoods. His art has been seen at the “Heal the World” festival at the Cleveland Museum of Art and at Cleveland’s City Hall. He worked with the Columbus Urban League, OSU Black Studies Department and The Afrocentric Personal Development Shop. His formal training ended with a high school diploma with a major in commercial art. He learned from mentors like Tom Pannell, Ed Colston, and Bill Agnew who introduced him to the challenging profession of being an African American artist in America.
In addition to being a painter, Walt was also an accomplished vocalist, drummer, and teacher of the arts. He was part of IsSaid and the Advance Party, a musical group of notable influence in Columbus for 40 years. He worked with Hot Times Festival and played drums for classes at Ballet Met and the Dunbar Center.
Walt enjoyed teaching young minds eager to learn about art. His desire to educate took him on a journey around the world, teaching art and music courses in the fishing village of Ngor in Senegal, West Africa, acting as a consultant to Harambee II, working at Wholistic Stress Control Institute in Atlanta, working in Jamaica, and working as an artist-in-residence at the African American Museum in Cleveland.
He continued to travel from state to state, taking teaching positions in St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, and Atlanta. Two trips to Africa showed him what an unlimited future that was in store for mankind and in the cultural wealth Africa had to offer.
His African guide on one of his trips named him “Wali” – a Kiswahili word meaning “friend.” With all that he accomplished, Walt will be remembered for his impact on Columbus Arts and African American culture.