Pop of color: A guide to murals in the greater Toledo area

·6 min read

Aug. 15—Northwest Ohio is a little more colorful, thanks to an influx of murals that have popped up this summer.

Muralists have been busy in the Glass City, splashing an octopus across an interior wall at Imagination Station, a towering young girl across building edifice on South Huron Street, and, in one high-profile example, a spray of sunflowers and sunchokes across 28 massive grain silos along the Maumee River. It's an artistic refresh in a city that had already boasted numerous large-scale pieces.

Artist Leah Tumerman called such public art especially important because it's "accessible to all people."

"Any background can show up and see a beautiful piece of artwork in a public space," said Tumerman, a guest artist with Young Artists at Work, a paid apprenticeship program for local teenage artists to learn creative and job skills.

Imagination Station

Tumerman and her cohort of 14 to 18-year-old local artists worked for weeks to paint a mural commissioned by Imagination Station in late July. The teenagers collaborated with the older artist to propose, design, and paint a hybrid outer space and oceanic universe on the lower level of the museum, which will be seen by businessmen and children alike.

Imagination Station is at 1 Discovery Way, Toledo.

According to Tumerman, the museum gave the group room for artistic interpretation, solely requesting something that was science-themed and would appeal to a large audience. Their ultimate "marriage" of science and art, she said, came from the young artists' belief that both art and science seek to explore unknown worlds — a uniting factor.

Harmony Hudson, a student artist who has been involved with YAAW for three years, called this mural "definitely different" than the more realistic drawing she is used to.

"But now I'm more willing to more go down this road in my own artwork," she said. "I love all the bright colors and kooky characters."

Anspach Law

When Michael Ansbach from Anspach Law, 25 S. Huron St., Toledo, reached out to local artist Michael Osborne to paint a mural on the side of his building, he only had a few themes that he wanted to be incorporated into the ultimate design, which symbolizes new beginnings and rebirth.

So Osborne had wide artistic freedom to create what he called an empowering tribute to his niece and other women and motivated people more broadly. "Through determination and endurance we can do whatever we put our minds to and bring more color to the Earth and more positive influences," he said.

The ultimate design, which he said sought to "bring to life" what was previously "just a bare brick wall" is a giant lion symbolizing strength alongside a young girl. It's called the Ageless Empress, and the central figures are surrounded by dandelions, butterflies, mountains, and vibrant color.

Although work started on July 7, rain delays drew out the project to a multi-week endeavor. Osborne just recently completed the building's artwork. But even though Osborne had not been able to work for as many days as he would like due to the weather, he called the reception "overwhelmingly positive and encouraging."

"Toledo has been needing this type of culture influx and emphasis on reviving the city," he said, "and it needs artists and patrons to help bring that to fruition."

Artists' Club

Plans for a mural at the Toledo Artists' Club, which is located inside the Toledo Botanical Garden, 5403 Elmer Drive, Toledo, started last summer. Carol Sicha, a professional muralist and member of the club, was chosen to be the lead painter and designer.

Work didn't begin this year until late June, though, on what club president Joe Rudski described as a "whimsical concept" of a vine whose leaves are replaced with painting instruments. Though it is finished in its current form, the vine extends farther, so that club members can continue adding to the mural in the future.

"The idea is to have guests coming into the park and saying, 'Hey, what's that going on over there?'" he added.

Sicha agreed, saying that she "hopes that it beckons you to come inside, inspire, and encourage each other."

Zepf Center

Closer to downtown, Chris Rodriguez spent part of his summer on a mural in the courtyard of the Zepf Center, a behavioral health care center at 2005 Ashland Ave. Rodriguez, who previously painted a mural at the Zepf Center in 2016, this time for their runaway teen shelter at the same address, painted from personal experience — he is a recovering alcoholic.

"I was going over ideas in my head, and one thing that jumped out at me was, 'You grow through what you go through,'" he said. "Everything in my childhood, traumatic experiences, actually made me who I am today. I wanted to create a design based around that."

Rodriguez chose to make that quote the centerpiece of the mural, which charts the path of a tree growing out of darkness and skulls into brightness and color, finished with sunflowers and a dove. He completed it on July 4.

The reception, he said, is "really great," adding that the patients and staff are "blown away" by the mural.

River Wall

Although not yet completed, the Glass City River Wall mural project on Miami Street, facing the Maumee River, also plans to feature sunflowers prominently across the 28 grain silos of Archer Daniels Midland Co. It's likely to be the largest in the country.

Designed by Los Angeles artist Gabe Gault, the mural will recognize the Native Americans who lived on the banks of the Maumee River before European settlers colonized the area. A mother, child, and grandmother will be featured on three of the silos. The others will be adorned with sunflowers and sunchokes, a type of sunflower previously harvested by tribes in the area.

The mural is scheduled to be completed before the end of August, in time for the Solheim Cup golf tournament to begin.


Another mural only completed last month — but significantly farther outside of Toledo — is in Archbold, and designed by Cincinnati artist Dave Rickerd. The Fulton County village planned to commission a mural five years ago after the demolition of an old drugstore revealed a large, blank wall along an intersection at 203 N. Defiance St.

"It just looked horrible," Mayor Brad Grime said.

When their initial pick for a muralist retired, he recommended Rickerd, whom the mayor happened to know through his son's marriage. "We invited him to come up, and [the committee] was so impressed with him, they said this is the guy that we want."

Rickerd, who stayed at a local Archbold inn for over a month as he worked on the mural, chose to design a landscape that told the story of the town throughout history by placing various artifacts inside an antique printer's tray. The artifacts, which the committee chose, include a license plate, sports equipment, high school band drum, and a water tower.

"The town has been sensational," Rickerd said of the reception. "They are very receptive to the whole mural area, and there's an over 90 percent positive rating right now. You don't hear negativity."

There is also be a blank spot for people to take a photo with the mural, making it an interactive piece of art. Mayor Grimes added that he hopes this mural, one of the largest in northwest Ohio at 136 feet long and 60 feet high, will attract more visitors to the area.

Rickerd agreed. "It's definitely better in-person," he said. "The pictures don't do it justice."