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Work begins on massive mural that will shine a national spotlight on Toledo

It’s called the Glass City River Wall, and it is being painted on 28 silos along the Maumee river.
Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 6:07 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The first paint went up on Wednesday for a giant mural that will adorn the side of dozens of silos in downtown Toledo.

After decades as a giant blank canvas along the banks of the Maumee River, the ADM silos are being transformed into community art.

“We’ve always been a city dedicated to the arts,” says Nicole LeBoutillier, who has been part of the Glass City River Wall project from the start. “This just takes it to a whole new level. The mural is being painted on 28 silos and involves about 170,00 square feet of space. It will be the largest mural in the country when we are done. I wake up every day happy to be part of this project. Watching it finally come to life is emotional.”

The project started after Nicole, Brandy Wimberly, and some other friends took a boat ride down the river in 2019. The idea from that summer day truly began to take shape Wednesday as the first paint went on to the silos.

Christina Kasper is the Project Manager, and says it rewarding to see something so many have worked on begin to take shape.

“This project has literally has shifted the axis of my being,” she says. “I will never be the same after doing this project. All of the people who have been part of this have helped create a beautiful tapestry for this community.”

The mural will have a beautiful blue background. It will feature sunflowers that are native to this area, as well as Native American portraits to honor our region’s first farmers.

“I think I ordered about 5,000 gallons of paint,” says Zak Warmann, owner of Detroit Sign Painters a company working with artist Gabe Gault to bring the design to life. “Have you ever ordered that much before? I don’t think anybody has.”

So just how do you go about creating a mural on 28 silos? It’s similar to the paint by numbers concept, just on a much larger scale.

“We break the drawing down into 1” by 1″ segments and blow it up into 10x10 sections on the wall,” says Warmann. “The hard part is that there is no stepping back to look at your work. You have to trust your skill. At the end of the day, you have to drive by to see what you painted.”

Warmann adds that the cement coating paint being used on the project should last for decades.

“You likely won’t even see any fading for 15 years or so,” he says. “And it will be many years after that before you see any deterioration. It will outlast me, that’s for sure.”

“It will indelibly change this city and all the people involved with the project,” says Kasper. “It will define us in a most beautiful way that is so richly deserved in this city.”

The project has a price tag of about $750,000 and crews expect to be working on the mural through August. It will be finished just in time for the Solheim Cup, an event that will draw people from all over the world to Toledo.

Gabe Gault is from Los Angeles and will be here working on the project this summer. There are also four local artists who will be working alongside him. And it’s not just a pretty mural, there will also be an educational component to it for local students.

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