When Joshua Stout was a kid, he dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. It wasn’t until he won “artist of the year” as a first grader at Houston Elementary in Colerain Township that he realized he was more artistically inclined than his peers. Now, at 36 years old, instead of starting for the Cincinnati Reds, Stout transforms neighborhoods, offices, and homes through his independent art brand, Makeshift Mammoth.
While he offers a variety of services, he’s best known for his colorful and cartoonish murals. Since leaving the corporate world and launching Makeshift Mammoth in July 2019, Stout has completed more than 20 murals throughout the tri-state.
The ballerina hippos dancing on the side of Algin Furniture downtown, the T-Rex Batman on the backside of Streetside Brewery in Columbia-Tusculum, and a Looney Tune–themed piece on the exterior of Stringtown Bar & Grill in Florence are a few of our favorites. Stout’s favorite? The playful produce inside the downtown Kroger parking garage—one of the blueberries bears the face of his deceased grandfather, who loved Kroger.
“There’s definitely a place for art with messaging and seriousness, but I think on the flip side we also have to have some fun,” says Stout, whose goal for each mural is to make viewers feel like they’re having “moments of discovery.”
He’s also on a mission to make art more accessible. Having worked with ArtWorks and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, Stout knows murals aren’t cheap, which is why they’re most commonly seen in Over-the-Rhine and downtown, where large corporations are willing to fund them.
“I want to go into smaller areas where you wouldn’t typically see public art and work with them,” Stout says. “When you put up a mural, especially when you engage the community, it makes them feel pride in their neighborhood and shows them that somebody cares enough to beautify it.”
To keep costs down for clients, Stout uses spray paint, which is faster and more vibrant than regular paint. By drawing a “doodle grid” of numbers and letters in chalk, he’s able to scale his design to the wall. But it’s not just the wall he’s changing.
“Public art doesn’t just change a wall, building, or space; it has the power to transform a community,” Stout writes on his website. “We believe [it] has the power to transform and unite.”