Local business owner is designer for Cash museum

In tough times, a local business owner thought about closing the door on his dream.

But an opportunity arose by the late “Man in Black”, which gave Art Your Mind Design owner Mike Smithson guidance — and an opportunity for him to do design work for one of his favorite musicians.

Smithson, who has owned his downtown Wapakoneta business since June 2011, recently received an e-mail from Bill Miller, who developed the idea to create a Johnny Cash Museum to be built this summer in Nashville, Tenn.

Miller took notice of one of Smithson’s artworks on eBay, which was a Johnny Cash themed poster, and contacted him about joining the crew for the Johnny Cash Museum and becoming the official graphic designer for the museum.

Smithson, who had been selling posters on eBay to earn extra money in hopes to earn extra money for the holidays and to pay bills at his shop, agreed.

“I was freaking out,” Smithson said after Miller approached him about doing the graphic design work for the Johnny Cash Museum on Dec. 16. “It was a blessing. It was a tough time here. I thought about closing down.”

Smithson said he was excited to take on this opportunity, along with being honored when this opportunity came his way because Smithson is a avid Johnny Cash fan.

After Smithson talked with Miller about the opportunity, he said it had felt like he had known him his entire life.

“My ideas and overall design concepts lined up with his as if we could read each other’s mind,” Smithson said of his discussion with Miller about the project.

A news conference to announce the phases of construction for the museum was held on Feb. 14, and Smithson and his wife, Melissa Myers, traveled down to Nashville to be in attendance.

Smithson created a media kit, press posters and passes, two 8-foot banners, one 8- by 18-foot wall graphic, table tops and Johnny Cash M & Ms for the recent news conference announcing the project of the Johnny Cash Museum, which is slated to open this summer.

He also had the opportunity to meet a few of Johnny Cash’s relatives during his stay in Nashville.

“This is not some random person I’m doing design work for, it was Johnny Cash,” Smithson said. “I love him.”

Smithson said he is such a huge fan of Cash’s, that he wanted to do the museum justice with his designs, and his wife helped keep him on track and supported him through the creative process.

Smithson will continue to work with Miller and staff at the Johnny Cash museum on design work, and plans to travel back to Nashville for the grand opening of the museum this summer.

Not only has this experience been fun for Smithson, but it was a historical moment for him as a designer.

Smithson found his work photographed on the front page of the Tennessean, when the newspaper covered the news conference, along with autographing memorabilia for people in attendance at the conference.

Smithson said the design style for his work is a classic look that had a vintage “Cash” feel to it.

“I wanted to make it appear as if it was an original poster with a modern flare,” Smithson said, of a Johnny Cash poster he designed for the museum press conference.

Currently, Smithson is discussing ideas for gift shop memorabilia for the Johnny Cash Museum with Kelly Hancock, Cash’s niece, who is dealing with the marketing portion of the museum.

Smithson will be creating the posters, designing vinyl record labels, t-shirts and the tickets to get into the museum, just to name a few projects he will be working on for the museum and gift shop.

Smithson, who lives in Shawnee, fell in love with design in high school and designs his artwork primarily in Photoshop.

“I feel like I have known the program forever,” Smithson said, when he first starting working with the program when he was 16-years-old.

Throughout this entire experience, Smithson said his wife has been his biggest supporter during this opportunity.

“I have a big support team,” Smithson said. “My wife helps me stay focused.”