Hen's new house to gain $450,000 in artistic touches

From: The Toledo Blade, October 23, 2001, Section A, Pg. 1 and 5
By: Rebekah Scott

Heartwarming artwork is coming to the new Mud Hens stadium in downtown Toledo, art that looks back on the rosecolored past.

It's little bronze boys in old time baseball uniforms, barefoot children sneaking peeks through the outfield fence, vendors hawking produce from horse-drawn carts.

"We really didn't have to do public art, but I thought we just had to," said Sandy Isenberg, president of the Lucus County commissioners. "It adds so much."

Mrs. Isenberg and a crowd of contractors, commissioners and art volunteers sacrificed their hairdos to hard hats yesterday at a partially built Fifth Third Field. They looked over the mock-ups of five public artworks - about $450,000 worth - recently commissioned to "lift the spirits of the fans" who go to Mud Hens games, starting in April. "This will be the most comprehensive art collection of any minor-league ball field in America," said Susan Reams, head of the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo Art in Public Places committee.

Bowling Green sculptor Emanuel Enriquez will cast The Knothole Gang in bronze and place it on the brick sidewalk outside the St. Clair Street wall for $80,000. It comprised four life-sized children peeping through a plank fence to see who's at bat. A real-life "Knot-hole Gang" once frequented Swayne Field, the Hen's one-time home, Mrs. Reams explained.

"There will be other knot-holes in the (sculpted) fence too, so we can have a peek," said arts commission presenter Margy Trumbull.

"We'd prefer it if you'd buy a ticket," Mrs. Isenburg shot back. "You watch. You pay."

"This art is not what you'd expect," said Joe Napoli, Mud Hens general manager. "a stadium typically has monuments and statues of (professional) ball players. "We're doing something different. We have some wonderful pieces of art, but not a single ballplayer.

He was almost right.

I Got It! , the "centerpiece" sculpture, will be produced by Frank Gaylord of Barre, Vt. , the artist who fashioned the Korean War Memorial in Washington. The sculpture features three life-size boys in old-time uniforms leaping to catch a fly ball. The boys will look down Superior Street except during games, when their special turntable will rotate them to face the left-field foul line. The $120,000 cost of this "signature work" will be covered by Dave, Jim and Tim White whose father once owned the Dave White Chevrolets, a semipro baseball team in Toledo.

Toledo painter Leslie Adams was hired to paint a 84 ft. mural on the outside facing Washington Street, a realistic "fool the eye" view of the Superior Street produce market as it appeared on that very spot in about 1892. Bowling Green State University Students will help with execution. It will cost $90,000.

The stadium's main entry gates featuring 18 ft. wooden ball bats and steel catcher's mitts will be forged by John Rogers of Portland, Ore. at a cost of $150,000. The gates should be installed at the corner of Huron and Washington streets by April 9, the opening day.

About 30 baseball-themed manhole covers will be produced by North Carolina artist Jim Gallucci at a cost of $30,000 to $35,000. Similar covers were hits in Seattle and London, Mrs. Reams said.

An 18 person review board from the arts commission shifted though 40 submissions to chose works to appear along the sidewalks, fences, and walls of the field. Heather Rohrs, directors of the arts commission, said she hopes private donations and the proceeds of a planned $175-per plate gala will pay most of the cost: $54,000 will be offset by the city's "One Percent for Arts" fund.


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