Mural project depicting history of steel in Weirton moves forward

Craig Howell PAINTING A PICTURE — During an event in October, Mike Swartzmiller unveiled his idea for a new public mural, to be located along the wall near No. 5 Gate, showcasing the history of steel in Weirton. Swartzmiller said he hopes to be able to begin the project in the coming months.

WEIRTON — The history of the steel industry in Weirton soon will be the subject of a new public mural to take shape in the community.

“It’s ready to go,” Mike Swartzmiller, who is leading the project, said during the April 10 meeting of the Renaissance Weirton Committee.

Swartzmiller first publicly announced the project in October, although he said he has been working on the idea for more than a year, with support from the Top of West Virginia Arts Council.

Hearing discussions about the creation of a possible arts district in Weirton, Swartzmiller said the group wanted to find a way to contribute and saw an area they felt would be perfect located near the No. 5 Gate along Main Street.

“We saw these 15 empty blocks on the wall,” Swartzmiller said.

The effort received additional support from the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau approximately three weeks ago, and Swartzmiller said he has had several discussions with officials at ArcelorMittal.

“With that, the big two hurdles are over,” he said.

Swartzmiller already is scheduling an individual to power-wash and prepare the wall for the project, and envisions a total of six weeks to complete all of the painting. The section in the middle of the wall is expected to feature a painting of a Weirton Steel employee badge.

“That’s going to be the focal point of the wall,” Swartzmiller said.

All other wall sections will feature a depiction of the steel-making process, an individual related to the industry or some other symbol connected to the industry.

“This is not about Weirton Steel,” Swartzmiller said. “This is about the steel industry in Weirton.”

Swartzmiller said he plans to reach out to the local arts communities to find artists interested in participating, and possibly even have a contest to decide some of the scenes to be included.

This is the latest public art project planned in Weirton.

In 2018, surrounded by the events of the Gate 5 Industrial Art Festival, a group from Pittsburgh created a metal sculpture of a horse, created from scrap metal donated by the Frontier Group from former steel property in Weirton.

The festival also featured the beginnings of a mosaic, located at Cove Commons and using shards of Fiesta pottery. Organizers of that project plan two upcoming work days, on May 11 and May 25, to complete the project.