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Mural celebrates Norwalk's 200th anniversary

By JUDITH LINDER-ASHAKIH • Sep 8, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Seven years ago, Jackie Hug designed a mural to celebrate the city of Norwalk. It would be for her master’s degree in art, envisioned as a local community project. Along with two other artists, Keelie Webb and Alynne Neuberger, the three young women created a tableau in color of historic views in downtown Norwalk.

Timetables didn't mesh in 2010 between her school requirements and the consultations of city council. But when Hug was asked by Rachel Hipp to join the bicentennial cultural and educational committee, she floated the idea again. The mural re-surfaced. "The Huron County commissioners were excited and open and encouraging. The chamber of commerce and Norwalk Economic Development Corp. were helping on it from the start," Hug said. "Kathleen Schaffer, treasurer of Huron County, went to the county commissioners to find a site for the painting. It will be on Linwood, on the east wall of the former antique mall, just off East Main Street."

Will the mural be painted directly on the wall? Well, not exactly.

"It's a marriage of compromise," Hug said with a laugh. “(We are) putting it on a banner, rather than the brick. It will be 24 feet by 16 feet in size, painted on banner material which can be repaired if there is outdoor wear and tear. It will be will be mounted on a framework, be longer lasting and can be taken down and touched up if necessary. And easier to install."

Where can you find a banner that large?

Trevor Rood of Foghorn Designs has donated the banner and digitized the original painting to be used as a base for a newer, more inclusive design with lettering added. "There are added nods to history in the windows of the Glass Block of an A.B. Chase organ and many other 'Easter egg finds' (as Hug calls them) scattered throughout the painting," she said. "Many people contributed historic photos adding diversity and interest to the mural, some even took them from their office walls for us. Thirty people and counting have been constantly contributing their help. Art teachers and artists and others with enthusiasm for creativity have collaborated.

"On Memorial Day weekend Mike Myers OK’d use of the former Handicraft Headquarters building as space in a venue large enough to spread the banner on the floor to paint. From artists to resources it has been a big community project," Hug said. "Smetzer Paint and Supplies on Ohio 250 provided the paint. And cash contributions have been amazing and so helpful.

"Non-artists on the team brought lots of fresh eyes that helped add detail. Some suggested additions such as ivy to be painted on the porch of Sally Benedict's house, the ivy she had brought from her home in Connecticut."

A special touch, a portrait of Fred Gassman, conductor of the Dinky, is shown in the streetcar. The Lake Erie and Wheeling roundhouse with tracks is another important part of early Norwalk industry. Oldest historic sites are painted in grays on the left half of the mural, while more recent industry and businesses are in color on the right. The Truckers and the Flyers are showcased. Fisher-Body is highlighted while areas of farmland have been added signifying the earliest, most widespread way of life in Huron County.

"So many miscellaneous people have come for a few hours to add to the painting. Constantly others come and work more hours. Others are cheerleaders on the side. It is a benefit of being under a roof," Hug said as she compares it to working outdoors on a wall in unpredictable weather.

Sally Schnellinger and Jackie Hug were hard at work recently painting the finishing touches of this incredible piece with the finish line in sight. Full completion of the mural, framing and hanging are imminent, depending mostly on the weather. Throughout the entire process, Hug said, "things have just come together."

Hug said Thursday the mural could go up as early of this weekend, with a deadline of Sept. 15.

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