Mural Is a Sign of Life at Westside Bowl

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Live music is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, so Westside Bowl is using the down time to make improvements.

Most visible is a 110-foot mural that was recently painted on the west exterior wall of the building at 2617 Mahoning Ave. 

The mural was painted this month by Dave Witzke of Cleveland, whose work can be seen across that city. Witzke’s artist moniker is The Sign Guy, and his murals and art – colorful, cartoonish, cool – are common sights on walls and in restaurants in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.

His highly-recognizable style of street art is bright, simplistic and comical, mainly involving his trademark quirky birds and cats.

The Westside Bowl mural features birds, and one bat, in various phases of chaos and death. One is holding a sign that reads “The End Is Near” while another one is bowling.

The mural is among the largest in Youngstown, and it’s also  the biggest one Witzke has ever made – not to mention his first outside of Cleveland.

But what does it mean?

Witzke says the mural has no message. Westside Bowl owner Nate Offerdahl says it’s open to interpretation.

What about the “The End Is Near” sign? 

“That was Nate’s idea,” Wizke says.

Image via Audrey Warrenfeltz

Offerdahl says it was his only stipulation for the mural. But whether it means the end of something good or the end of something bad – that’s in the eye of the beholder.

Witzke, who operates a loading dock tow-motor and crane for his day job, says it took him 13 hours over two days to finish the wall. He completed it on July 11. It would have taken a lot longer if he used spray paint, which is his usual medium, but Witzke instead used a power sprayer.

The artist got his start years ago painting graffiti. “I got arrested for it in 2005,” he says.

Afterward, he got into street art more seriously, and now shows his work at festivals. Lately he has branched into metal sculptures of his birds. Witzke says he would like to do more murals in Youngstown.

Westside Bowl’s Offerdahl says he’s been following Witzke on Instagram and has purchased his art in the past. “[Witzke] posted recently that he was looking to do murals and I asked him if he’d be willing to come to Youngstown,” Offerdahl says, and sent him a photo of his building. “He was like, ‘How long is that wall, man?’”

Offerdahl says the mural isn’t the only new improvement at his rock club/bowling alley/bar/pizza shop.

“We’re taking advantage of this time to do some renovation,” he says.

Offerdahl has replaced the tap system and has purchased a projector for the stage as well as more sound equipment.

He has also bought two house drum kits – one for the main stage upstairs and another for the smaller basement venue.

“That’s a big draw for a lot of touring bands,” he says, because they can travel lighter without having to haul drums.

The Westside Bowl crew of employees has also done a lot of interior painting. A second massive metal sculpture by Youngstown artist Tony Armeni has been installed in front of the building, and Offerdahl has obtained a section of the old stage curtain from Powers Auditorium and plans to use it as a backdrop or wall accent.

A future improvement could come in the form of a new and larger patio that would be next to the new mural in an area currently used for parking. It would increase the mural’s visibility.

“We’re kicking around the idea,” says Offerdahl.

Pictured: Cleveland artist Dave Witzke created a mural on a wall at Westside Bowl, on the west side of Youngstown. (Photo by Mollie Crowe, Little Blackbird Photo)

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.