Murals on their minds

STEUBENVILLE – A hope for two new murals to be part of the 23 already in place throughout Steubenville was shared with the Steubenville Kiwanis Club during its Tuesday luncheon meeting at the YWCA.

Jerry Barilla, president of the Historic Fort Steuben board of directors, displayed an artist’s rendition of an Edwin M. Stanton historical mural he said ideally would be located near the courthouse where there’s a statue of the Steubenville native and secretary of war who served under President Abraham Lincoln.

Barilla and Judy Bratten, executive director of the fort, were guest speakers for the Kiwanis meeting, where the two focused on the “Now More Than Ever” theme the fort and Visitors Center are embracing this year in an effort to support and promote what is positive in the community.

“One of the biggest things we have in our community is our murals, and when we took on the Visitors Center responsibility, the murals came along with it, and we had to make a decision,” Barilla said. “We have 23 murals out there, so the decision was basically this -let them go or try to get them refurbished.

“They are an attraction for this city and to just let them sit on those walls and deteriorate I thought was something we should not let happen. We had one mural refurbished on Market Street across from the old Ohio Valley Towers this past year, and we will continue to work on some others that need redone,” Barilla said.

Doing so requires fundraising and getting cooperation and support, he said, adding that the bigger goal is to add two new murals to the mix.

The artist’s rendition depicts a scene around 1862 in the war room in Washington, D.C., that includes Stanton, Steubenville native David Bates at the telegraph and President Abraham Lincoln.

“Here we have two home-grown people, plus Lincoln stopped here (in Steubenville) and spoke, and we thought this is an historic moment,” Barilla said. “This is in the war room at Washington, and Stanton played a major role in the Civil War in the troops’ movements and supplies; David Bates communicated all those instructions out to the forces; and Abraham Lincoln, of course, was the hands-on president as well in the Civil War,” he said.

The second new mural would feature Steubenville native Calvin Jones, the first black to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and also could include other athletes from the area who went on to become successful, Barilla said.

“Those two murals are things we would love to see happen in Steubenville.” Barilla said, estimating a mural’s cost to be in the neighborhood of $25,000 to $30,000. “The project is ongoing to keep these murals viable and alive and to see if we can add two more to it.”

When the Steubenville Convention and Visitors Bureau disbanded, the fort took on the responsibility of the Visitors Center and under that umbrella, the responsibility of the murals and other activities, Barilla said.

An events committee formed to work on such events as the hometown celebration, for example, to include the Dean Martin celebration and the Christmas parade. January brought planning for this year’s hometown celebration that will include entertainment at the Spot Bar, Steubenville High School and the Berkman Amphitheater and the possibility of a street fair featuring a pizza contest, he said.

“So we’re really going to work hard to promote Steubenville as a hometown celebration and keep a positive spin on things,” Barilla said.

Work on a visitors guide; a new Smart phone app promoting the city; plans for five billboards throughout the Tri-State Area about the murals and fort; and advertisements in numerous Ohio travel-related magazines are all examples of promotional efforts made.

“We are proud of Steubenville and our surrounding area and appreciate all your efforts,” Barilla said.

Bratten said despite winters’s lull, the fort is a busy place with plans in the works for many events to come.

“I think the fort is one of the best kept secrets in the Ohio Valley,” Bratten said of the historic attraction that logged 8,000 some visitors last year from more than 44 states and seven countries, not to mention school tours.

Historical and educational programs coming up at the fort include a Black History Month program focusing on the African-American experience in the Civil War; a program featuring a local connection to the Tuskegee airmen, the country’s first black military airmen; and a Black History Month film festival geared to children and adults.

The popular quilt show in April, a special exhibit on the War of 1812, a summer youth program for pupils in grades fourth through sixth and work on the 11-show lineup for the summer concert series are on the agenda as well.