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Coalition details plans for mural in Toronto

PICTURING THE POSSIBILITIES — Local artist Doug Griffith and George Komar, president of the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization, discuss plans for a new mural to feature many aspects of the Gem City while seated behind Noah’s Mural, one of a few murals commissioned by the coalition, it was painted by Ruston Baker and restored last year by Griffith. -- Warren Scott

TORONTO — Recently the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization used social media to ask residents what they would like to see in a new mural the group is planning.

“The suggestions were many and varied,” said George Komar, the coalition’s president, but he and others behind the project found a way to incorporate many of them.

Komar said the volunteer group has worked with local artist Doug Griffith to develop a design with 11 ovals containing images representing various aspects of the Gem City.

Komar said Toronto’s patriotism and respect for military veterans will be reflected with depictions of a fireworks display, a yearly Independence Day tradition that draws many to the city, and the World War I Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which is said to be the first American monument to honor veterans of the war.

He added another oval will pay tribute to police, firefighters and other first responders.

Komar said many residents wanted to see the city’s high school and its sports represented.

Four high schools have educated Toronto youth through the years, but because of limited space, the decision was made to feature the two most recent — the building that stood at Myers and Third streets from 1926 to 2013 and the current junior-senior high school that opened on Dennis Way in 2013.

Finding space to represent each of the school’s sports was difficult, Komar said, so the mural will include the school’s familiar T and Red Knight logo to represent all of them.

But he said the coalition felt Red Knight baseball teams should be acknowledged for the two state titles they earned in 1989 and 2019, and an oval will be dedicated to them.

Komar said many suggested various businesses and other places that have figured prominently in the city’s history. He said after some consideration, the Kaul Clay Manufacturing Co. was chosen for inclusion.

Established around the early 1900s, the company produced ceramic pipe for sewer lines and employed many local residents. Clay from the city also was used to produce brick, tile and other products.

Another oval will depict the former National Bank building on North Fourth Street that became home in the 1940s to Youth Harbor, a teen hangout where local bands performed.

Plans call for the mural to include the Shop Local logo appearing on banners recently posted around the city by the coalition and the Ohio River, which, in addition to offering scenic beauty, played a key role in the city’s development.

Natural landscapes are a favorite subject for Griffith, who once painted a woodland scene in the home of an avid outdoorsman.

A Costonia native who has lived in the city for more than 20 years, Griffith has painted characters and scenes on the exterior of a number of local businesses, including B&W Automotive Repair, Tucker’s Tavern and DiCarlo’s Pizza.

Last year he was recruited to restore Noah’s Mural. Overlooking a community garden established by the coalition along Clark Street, it honors Noah Long, a local student who died following a brave battle against cancer at age 8.

It and another mural, honoring military veterans on North Third Street, were painted by Ruston Baker, a Millersburg artist, with assistance from Cody Jones.

Both murals were commissioned by the coalition with support from city officials, local businesses and other donors and the owners of the respective buildings.

Griffith said Noah’s Mural was a victim of the weather and the aging brick on which it was painted. But he has plastered a large area of the wall to create a smoother surface on which to retouch the damaged areas.

He explained that a clear finish could be applied to the painting but it wouldn’t be invulnerable to the weather and would make future restoration more difficult.

Across the street from it is a mural depicting the familiar figure of Bugs Bunny and running and playing silhouettes amid a colorful background. The work of Griffith, it also hasn’t held up well against the elements.

But Griffith said the planned site for the new mural, the 12-foot-by-40-foot wall of the Special Way convenient store facing North Fourth Street, will be better suited for the task.

Smoother and recently repainted white by the business’ owner, “It will be one of the best surfaces I’ve had to work on,” said Griffith.

Griffith will be painting the mural around his regular work schedule at a local business, so residents should expect it to be completed in phases.

He said city officials have agreed to provide some materials and scaffolding for the project, but the coalition also is seeking monetary donations.

Those who contribute $175 or more will be named on a plaque at the mural’s lower right quarter, while other donors will be listed on the coalition’s website, according to Komar.

Checks may be made payable to the Toronto Coalition/Mural and sent to the group at P.O. Box 121, Toronto, OH 43964. For information, call (740) 544-6439.

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