Glass City River Wall Mural Work Continues
A mural in Toledo, Ohio, is set to be the largest of its kind in the United States once completed, following weather delays and paint shortages. Currently, as the team puts work on hold for the winter months, the mural is 85% complete.
The project, named the Glass City River Wall, encompasses the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) concrete grain silos in Toledo, east of I-75 along the Maumee River. 82,365 cars reportedly pass by the location every day, equating to over 30 million views per year.
“Our goal is to showcase our city’s dedication to the arts and urban renewal, while telling a story about our rich and vibrant cultural history—past, present and future,” states the project’s mission. “Additionally, our intention is to highlight ADM’s purpose which is to unlock the power of nature to enrich the quality of life.”
In 2019, Brandi Winberly and Nicole LeBoutillier went on a boat trip on the Maumee River. Upon seeing the ADM concrete grain silos, they came up with the idea for the mural space and called their friend, Christina Kasper, who is an art consultant and President of nonprofit Urban Sight, Inc.
“We initially approached the Toledo Arts Commission,” Kasper said in an interview. “With the Solheim Cup going on in Toledo this summer, the Arts Commission was very willing to help advise on the project but did not have the capacity to do the project. We did not realize at the time that our project would be the largest mural in the country by 100,000 square feet. The mural itself measures 170,000 square feet.”
Following their plan, a steering committee was established alongside a budget of $750,000. A grant from ADM and the port authority for economic development contributed to kick off the project, but the rest of the money was reportedly raised.
The team then put out an international request for quotation to find an artist for the mural. Kasper said after receiving numerous proposals, the group agreed upon artist Gabe Gault.
Gault is reportedly best known for his portraits and trademark backgrounds using camouflage patterns. His motto is "blending in and standing out".
“I want to tell a story that is colorful, bold, simple and readable,” Gault said about the project. “My objective is to offer both an origin story, which honors the original farmers of the region, as well as providing an inspirational image for the future: a cornucopia of abundance and prosperity which speaks to ADM’s corporate governance and philanthropic contributions.”
“Toledo has a rich history in the arts that most people are not aware of,” Kasper added. “We have the first Arts Commission in the state of Ohio. Toledo has one of the longest running 1% for the arts programs in the country. The Toledo Museum of Art is ranked as one of the top 5 art museums in the country. We have a really rich history of supporting the arts, and this is just another example of that.”
Stay tuned for more about this mural in Toledo. We’ll let you guess what brand of coatings they’re using… https://t.co/X77O1EgivV— Tnemec Company Inc. (@TnemecCompany) August 13, 2021
While the art was important to the team, the historical and educational importance was also crucial. Kasper said that they have established partnerships with Toledo Public Schools, The Toledo Public Library, Imagination Station, Lourdes University and the American Advertising Federation. An educational curriculum was established for students K-12 in Toledo about the Native American component, as well as partnership with the Myaamia Center in Oxford, Ohio.
Following two years of planning, a team of local artists and muralists began painting in June 2021.
While it was hoped the project would be completed by the end of 2021, weather, unexpected costs and the current paint shortage have prevented this target. Project organizers began a Kickstarter in November with a fundraising goal of $50,000 by Dec. 31, 2021 to be able to continue the project in 2022.
The campaign surpassed its goal with three days left, with 435 backers pledging $53,770 total. Almost $17,000 were raised in the last days of the Kickstarter.
“I'm not surprised by the way Toledo stepped up, so that's not surprising. But it's been really remarkable," Kasper said in an interview. "The most surprising thing to me is the outreach that we got nationally. Toledo is on the map now in a way that is so positive and it just put a floodlight on what we can do as a community.”
Phase 1 funding included preparation, production, communication and further maintenance. Phase 2 will include lighting the mural with any additional funding.
Painting is expected to resume on May 1 to finish the remaining 15%. Kasper said she hopes that they’ll also be able to paint the backside of the silos one day, making it the largest mural in the world.
About the Mural
The mural wraps around 28 concrete grain silos total. According to reports, the project will require about 5,000 gallons of paint.
Featuring Gault’s signature use of flora and fauna in his art, 25 silos on the mural include wild sunflowers, or Sun Chokes. Symbolically, the sunflowers represent hope, faith and good fortune, while historically it was one of the key crops for indigenous people of the region. This portion of the mural is completed.
Portraits on the last three silos—representing the significance of the Native American women and children who planted and maintained the corn fields that historically lined the banks of the Maumee river from Toledo to Fort Wayne, Indiana—are depictive of The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, The Shawnee Tribe, and Lakota Tribe.
“We chose living models from tribes to reinforce the fact that Native Americans are not a people from the past but exist in vibrant communities today,” according to the mural’s website. “Many of the tribes who considered this region home were forcibly relocated in the mid-19th century and reside west of the Mississippi today.”
Each of the models is reportedly a citizen of a Tribal Nation today. The portraits are depicted wearing jewelry common to the groups both in the past and present, with the mix of modern-day clothing and this jewelry demonstrating “that these people represent living communities, each with connections to their community’s history and ancestors.”
“We wanted to reach out to the Native American community and build a relationship in order to tell their story,” Kasper said. “The Native Americans that we spoke to had a message to share as well. They want people to know that they live among us and are a people of the present, not just the past, as they are often depicted.”
Tnemec Company, Inc. products were chosen for the project, due to its investment in developing innovative technologies for coating projects that require extra protection against environmental elements. Both Tnemec products being used are low VOC and water-based, reportedly making them easier to apply while still showcasing excellent performance.
Tnemec has also provided the Glass City River wall teams with technical and customer support throughout the project stages.
“The space has been beautified, and the project has elevated a sense of pride in the city. We wanted people to feel like this is who they are and for them to see a bit of themselves in it, whatever that might look like,” Kasper said.
“Just as someone sees something beautiful in a piece of art and it makes them curious and ask questions. It is the distillation down to the individual person to recognize that they are a thread in the tapestry of this community. That is what makes it beautiful. We are all different, yet we all have something in common. We can all look at something and see something different and yet it can bring us all together.”