Kent State graduate hopes to turn bridge into mural

Samantha Laros

Haymaker Farmers’ Market board present idea for mural

The proposal would turn the underside of the state Route 59 bridge into a structural mural.

Fritz Seefeldt, owner and manager of Haymaker Farmers’ Market, dreams of working beneath a new canvas this September.??

About two weeks ago, the market’s board of directors presented the idea for a mural in an application for state funding to the Ohio Arts Council.

The proposal would turn the underside of the state Route 59 bridge, now covered with graffiti, into a structural mural, designed by Elaine Hullihen, a local artist and Kent State graduate.

“There will be agricultural scenes as well as scenes from the farmers’ market and downtown Kent,” Seefeldt said. “And it will also involve the community in the painting itself. We’re going to have volunteers doing the painting — citizens and students — hopefully Kent State art students.”??

Seefeldt, who developed the concept with help from Jeff Ingram, director of Standing Rock Cultural Arts, a local art awareness group, said he drew inspiration from two places.

The first was a mural by Kent local Edwin George, a Native American Folk artist who received an individual artist’s grant from the Ohio Arts Council in 2005. The mural, entitled “Love,” is painted on the northern wall of Scribbles Coffee Co. on North Water Street. ?

Seefeldt’s second inspiration was an overpass he discovered while traveling through North Carolina.

The colorful mural along the heavily traveled Lexington Avenue depicts the history of the Asheville area in what is called the Asheville Mural Project.

To bring Asheville’s idea to Kent, the board’s next step is to propose the project to Kent City Council and the Ohio Department of Transportation. ??

Seefeldt said he anticipates full support from council. Ward 5 councilwoman Heidi Shaffer holds a place on the market’s board of directors and is already in support of the project. ??

“I think the more public art a place has, the more it expresses its character,” she said. “It’s sort of an example of grassroots public art. Rather than a statue being commissioned by a city administration, I think it’s very different. It’s more like this comes from the people.”??

Shaffer also said the project would benefit the city in ways beyond visual appeal.

“The peeling paint on the support of the bridge (has) really detracted from the beauty of the farmers’ market,” she said. “And I think that the manager was concerned about peeling paint and children. So it was more than just an aesthetic issue, it was also a safety issue.”??

Also on board is Kent City Manager Dave Ruller, who has created buzz about the mural recently through his blog. ?


In his March 3 entry about the mural, Ruller wrote, “It’s just crazy enough to be perfectly Kent.”??

Coinciding with downtown revival initiatives and a recent uprising from the local art community, the mural would be a year-round fixture of the city, offering a unique backdrop to those who work and shop at Haymaker Farmers’ Market May through October.

The biggest hurdle, Seefeldt said, may be gaining approval from ODOT, which owns the bridge. Materials will have to be analyzed to determine their affect on concrete, and all specifications must be submitted to the department. ??

Despite the hurdle, Seefeldt is hopeful.

“I think they are likely to approve because there have been precedents for projects like this on public bridges before,” he said. “One example is the I-240 overpass in Asheville, N.C. That’s a federal highway, governed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.”??

Seefeldt said if the board does not receive the state grant, the project may be pushed back a few months, but he is confident that Kent residents and market-goers will see a change in landscape soon. ??

Contact public affairs reporter Samantha Laros at [email protected].