Group seeks to liven Toronto with artwork | News, Sports, Jobs

ARTIST AT WORK — Doug Griffith works on one of 11 elements of a mural depicting various aspects of Toronto appearing on the east wall of the Special Way convenient store on North Fourth Street. — Warren Scott

TORONTO — As a mural depicting various aspects of Toronto nears completion, volunteers with the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization hope to draw attention to the Gem City through a series of interactive wall paintings.

Local artist Doug Griffith has been seen in recent weeks painting the mural on the east wall of the Special Way convenient store on North Fourth Street.

George Komar, the group’s president, had solicited ideas for the mural through a Facebook page seeking images representing the city’s history and culture.

After a wide variety of ideas were suggested, the decision was made to include many of them, with the following chosen:

— The city’s patriotism, represented by its annual fireworks display and its World War I Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which is believed to be the first American monument to honor veterans of the war.

— A tribute to the city’s police, firefighters and other first responders.

— Toronto’s school system, represented by two of the high schools that have served the community: one that stood at Myers and Third streets from 1926 to 2013; and the present one on Dennis Way.

— The school district’s T and Red Knight logo to represent the various school sports programs residents have supported through the years and the Red Knight baseball teams that won the 1989 and 2019 state championships.

— The Kaul Clay Manufacturing plant, which once employed thousands in the production of ceramic pipe for sewer lines; and the Shop Local logo used on banners posted by the coalition to encourage support of local businesses.

— The former National Bank building on North Fourth Street, which was occupied in the 1940s by Youth Harbor, a teen hangout where local bands performed.

— The Ohio River, which played a major role in Toronto’s development. It also inspired its Gem City nickname because it’s said captain of riverboats landing in the city considered it a gem for the many supplies and resources it offered.

Griffith said for many of the mural’s images, he has referred to photos. Some may be surprised to learn he worked directly from the photos, not sketches, when he set about applying his paint brush to the wall.

He said he won’t apply a sealant to his completed work because it’s not entirely resistant to the elements and it’s easier to restore a mural that hasn’t been sealed.

Griffith was recruited by the coalition in 2020 to restore a mural above its community garden honoring the late Noah Long, a local boy who died following a brave battle against cancer at age 8.

It and another mural honoring military veterans and found across from the World War I monument on North Third Street, were painted by Ruston Baker, a Millersburg, Ohio artist; with help from Cody Jones.

The coalition now is pursuing another project involving art: interactive wall paintings designed to allow spectators to complete the image by stepping into them.

They range from large wings with enough space for a person to stand between and cast an angelic pose to a bunch of colorful balloons with flowing strings that can be “grasped’ by a spectator.

Once the paintings are completed, the coalition will invite individuals to post photos of themselves on social media, thus encouraging others to visit the city.

“That’s the whole intent — to bring more traffic to Toronto,” said Komar.

After seeking sponsors to provide $100 for an interactive mural, the coalition has secured five: Tucker’s Tavern; Toni Moreland, State Farm Insurance agent; Margaret’s Cafe; Clarke Funeral Home’ and uPrint Photography.

Joining Griffith in responding to a call for artists are members of Cub Scout Pack 41 and Autumn Allison, who are slated to paint murals on the exteriors of Don’s Appliance Sales and Service, the Rock Day School (formerly the First Assembly of God Church) and Lisa’s Dance Elite.

Komar said he welcomes other artists and locations for the endeavor as well as sponsors for each mural.

Those interested may call (740) 544-6439 for information.

He said the painting may begin this season or in the spring, pending suitable weather.

The coalition also is preparing for its annual Christmas light-up night, which will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 22 at the Gazebo Commons at Third and Market streets.

Representatives of the two local nursing homes again will read the names of local residents who died since last year during the program.

The luminaria are $6 for one and $10 for two, with each additional one, $5 each. Orders may be placed at the Toronto Apothecary, Primary Print and Design, Swearingen Bat Co. and the water department at the Toronto Municipal Building.

Komar said proceeds will go to the Helping Hands food pantry, Toronto City Schools’ fund for student needs, the Toronto Kiwanis Club’s Coats for Kids project and Toys for Toronto, which provides gifts to children in need at Christmas.

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