Glass City River Wall faces numerous delays

Mural painting paused by weather, supply chain issues

The Glass City River Wall is visible from Interstate 75, the Maumee River and downtown Toledo. Photo courtesy of Urban Sight.

The Glass City River Wall (GCRW), the largest mural in the United States, is nearing completion. When the project was first revealed to the public, plans were to see it finished by the end of August 2021. Now, painting is temporarily on hold and creators turned to the public to raise funds to help see the project through. What happened?

A team of artists began painting 28 silos owned by the ADM grain facility on the east bank of the Maumee River in June 2021. With each silo standing 135 feet tall, the artwork covers an area measuring approximately 170,000 square feet. 

The original completion target was August 31, but inclement weather and supply chain issues with the paint caused unforeseen delays. Work ceased the second week in December and will resume in the spring, according to project manager Christina Kasper. She estimated the team of artists will need about four more weeks to finish painting the mural, which is visible from Interstate 75, the Maumee River and downtown Toledo.

In the meantime, organizers launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to complete the project. The all-or-nothing fundraiser ended on December 31, having earned $53,771.

An artist works on the Glass City River Wall. Photo courtesy of Urban Sight.

Something positive for Toledo
Urban Sight Incorporated, the nonprofit behind GCRW, has already raised $800,000 from more than 200 individual and corporate sponsors. Kasper estimates another $200,000 is needed to cover remaining costs that include a maintenance fund for the next decade.

Kasper, the president of Urban Sight, said the Kickstarter was launched as a way of inviting more people to the table to support the project. “Toledoans can be hard on Toledo, but I also think, deep down, they’re fiercely proud of Toledo,” said Kasper. “I think this was really an avenue for people to reflect on that. And there is something to be said for the amount of positivity that this is garnering.” 

The GCRW has received national media attention ever since it was first announced. Designed by California artist Gabe Gault, its three towering portraits, which represent the Native American women and children who were the first farmers of the region, are modeled on living members from three different Tribes— the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, the Shawnee Tribe and the Lakota Tribe. Kasper explains this decision was made to reinforce the fact that Native Americans are not only a people of the past, but exist in vibrant communities today. 

The sunflowers that cover the majority of the silos represent the wild sunflower or Sun Choke, one of the key crops for indigenous people of the region.

Work on the Glass City River Wall ceased in December, and is expected to resume in the spring. Photo by Laurie Bertke.

‘No one’s ever done it before’
Muralists Dean Davis and Eric Henn are leading the installation of Gault’s design with a crew of artists from Toledo and Detroit, each of whom brings a unique skill set to the project. “There was no template for this,” said Kasper. “It’s the largest in the country — no one’s ever done it before.”

While they have encountered many logistical challenges in the process of working on the mural, “there was no problem that couldn’t be solved based on everything that all those remarkable people brought to the table,” said Kasper. 

As one of the three concept creators for GCRW, along with Spaceshop’s Brandy Alexander-Wimberly and Perrysburg Energy’s Nicole LeBoutillier, Kasper hopes the project inspires people to believe that “anything is possible.” There is no question the mural will be finished, Kasper added. “It will be delivered to Toledo,” she said. “No one will ever pass through this city again without knowing exactly where they are, which is super cool.”

For more information on the GCRW, visit www.glasscityriverwall.org/.