Frida Kahlo, right, is among the local and international heroes depicted on a South Toledo mural.
For those who drive through the South End of Toledo underneath the I-75 overpass, the commute is going to be a little more of a drag.
That’s because the overpass is going to be rebuilt and the Mexico-themed murals that adorn and brighten the drab traverse under the interstate are going to be lost when the concrete pillars are demolished. The Ohio Department of Transportation is planning a major I-75 reconstruction project between Dorr Street and South Avenue starting this summer.
The murals depict images of community leaders Aurora Gonzalez and Sofia Quintero, farm worker activist Cesar Chavez, Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, and painter Frida Kahlo. There are scenes typical of Latin America, including a skeleton playing the guitar, representing the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, a portrait of a migrant family, a colorful dragon, and Toledo landmarks.
Sometimes art is transitory. Certainly anything painted on a bridge support is.
The 2011 art project cost $11,000 and caused murals to pop up all over the community. San Diego artist Mario Torero, with Bowling Green State University art faculty and students, scraped, primed, and painted two of the pillars with murals at the entry point to the Old South End, which many think of as a gateway to the community.
Said Gordon Ricketts, Bowling Green State University senior art lecturer, “There’s some really good work under there. … But murals can be ephemeral. If you get 20 years out of a mural, that’s pretty good.”
The Ohio Department of Transportation was commendably proactive about what would happen. It held a community meeting with the Sofia Quintero Art & Cultural Center and the Broadway Corridor Coalition. The agency intends to allow some of the concrete bearing the designs to be preserved.
But, so far, ODOT has not offered a more elaborate plan.
If there were any way to save the murals as a community landmark, ODOT must give such an alternative serious consideration.
Failing that, South Toledo will mourn the loss of the artistic beauty that for a time lifted many hearts.
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