Mural might be moved; Greater visibility, safety sought for Spanish gift

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 9

A 15-foot-long mural in International Park, a gift from Toledo, Spain, has been a target of vandals, and the city wants to see it moved to a more protected site.

The mural, depicting the skylines of both Toledos, is actually a mosaic of ceramic tiles donated to Toledo, O., to mark its 150th anniversary in 1987. It was assembled and dedicated July 4, 1990.

But its glass enclosure is coated with cobwebs, and someone has smashed a glass segment under the mural intended to represent the Maumee River and the River Tagus, which flows through the Spanish city. And officials and citizens have complained that it is not very accessible to the public.

The Toledo Arts Commission, which controls the city’s public art, is looking for a way to move the mural to a more accessible and secure place.

“We’re trying to find the most appropriate place for it, where it’s going to be most visible to the public,” said Heather Rohrs, the commission’s interim executive director.

Councilman Bob McCloskey, who has pushed for improvements in International Park, said he supports a move. “There has been some vandalism on it,” he said. “I want to see it taken out of the area and secured.”

Those who have been successful in finding the site – at the north end of the city building that houses Cousino’s Navy Bistro restaurant – say it is a less-than-fitting location for the artwork.

“It’s crummy looking, it looks like a hotdog stand,” said Perrysburg resident Sybil Small. “You couldn’t tell from a few yards away that it’s a work of art.”

Mrs. Small, who teaches English at the University of Toledo, has been hunting down the mural for nearly eight years. She went to International Park to see it in 1990 after it was unveiled and couldn’t find it. She returned a few times over the ensuing years, until finally discovering it a few months ago while searching with her husband.

“We looked and looked,” she said. “We were both shocked at how filthy it was. The glass is so dirty, there are these cobwebs on the lights, and it looked so tacky.”

She said if the Spanish city ever were to send a delegation to Ohio, “I think they would be disgusted. It would be a real slap in the face.”

The work of art cost more than $16,000 to produce in 1987. It took three years to have a site picked and a shelter built. The mayor of Toledo, Spain, came to Ohio for the work’s dedication.

Another mayor of Toledo, Spain, Agustin Conde, visited Toledo for six days in June, 1997. Whether he got to see the monument that his city donated a decade earlier was not clear yesterday, although Mr. Conde did attend a function in the Navy Bistro.

John Henry Fullen, director of Toledo Sister Cities International, which organized Mr. Conde’s visit, said he believes they visited the site. In any case, he has taken many out-of-town visitors there.

“It is a beautiful thing we want to preserve and protect and make accessible to everybody,” Mr. Fullen said. “It’s a logical place for it to be, International Park. I’ve taken people from China, Bulgaria, Spain, all over, to see it.”

Sharon McKisson, the commission’s public art coordinator, said the move is important because the current site “is becoming more of a private-enterprise venue.” By summer, four restaurants will open in the Navy Bistro building as part of a continuing development. “It is very vital that the art be publicly accessible in a public site,” she said.

In fact, she said she has never been able to see the site in person because of accessibility problems.

She said she hopes the mural can be moved by the end of 1999.