TOLEDO, Ohio — The Glass City River Wall has been in the works for over 2 years. A labor of love for the artists and organizers who brought it to life, the work didn't always go smoothly.
But on Saturday, they made it official. The River Wall was unveiled as the largest mural in the U.S.
It measures 170,000 square feet and required around 3,000 gallons of paint to paint the 28 silos at the ADM grain facility.
The designers at Urban Sight and their partners said they wanted to showcase the past, present, and future of the indigenous peoples who laid the groundwork for the economic development which continues to grow throughout this region.
Before the 20th century, many tribal nations occupied the areas of northwest Ohio before being forcefully removed.
It's part of what made Saturday's unveiling special for members of the tribes that called this area home.
Members of the Shawnee Tribe like Jeremy Turner said the mural is a powerful moment for his family in particular, as his 7-year-old son's likeness adorns one of the silos.
"I don't know. It's hard to put in the words and the feelings to see your flesh and blood up there on one of those silos," said Turner.
He said the mural is more than just paint. Rather it represents everything the Shawnee, Miami and Dakota tribes did as they laid the foundations for farming in the region.
"No one really thinks of us in a modern sense as we are today. Our communities are vibrant, our cultures strong. We're still doing all these things," said Turner.
Gabriel Gault was the main artist and designer behind the mural. He said he is grateful his team was able to bring the project to life even through the pandemic, supply chain issues, and inclement weather..
"People wanted to give up, I wanted to give up, but that wasn't an option. We pushed through and found out ways to overcome and push through the downfall of things," said Gault.
Gault lives in Southern California, but he said Toledo was the perfect place to take on his largest project to date.
He says he was happy to contribute to the city's revitalization.
One of those artists among the team of 13 who worked on the mural was Eric Henn, an Ohio native who also has relations to the Miami Tribe.
"To have the largest mural in the United States. I've been doing murals for 35 years and to have that title, it is really big," said Henn.
The mural showcases 92-year old Mary Louise Defender Wilson of the Dakota Tribe and Turner's son Ontondi Greyhat of the Shawnee Tribe who both tower over 100 feet high.
Urban Sight said. the project will establish a blueprint for future endeavors.