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Workers trying to save downtown Elyria murals

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    Workers from Drost Masonry remove soft brick from the face of the building on Pioneer Plaza as they work to repair the mural that has several bad spots from decaying brick. The workers were on the lift most of the day Thursday.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

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    Marty Rowe, left, one of the people who helped paint the murals on Pioneer Plaza, talks with David Pavlak, the artist who created the work. The pair are standing in front of a fictional store bearing Rowe’s name. Rowe pointed out that he is not an artist, he painted with a roller while the real artists did the detail work.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA — Artists and restorers will be working in the next few weeks and months to save and re-create as much of one of the city’s bicentennial murals as they can before it falls to make way for progress.

The crumbling train mural on the side of 322 Broad St. soon will be sacrificed when the building it is on is razed to make way for the $8 million Elyria Public Library Central Branch project. Several surrounding buildings already have been demolished, and 314 Broad St. will come down soon.

The train mural, unveiled in 2017 on the west side of 322 Broad St. for the city’s 200th birthday, was painted on soft interior wall bricks susceptible to the rain, freeze and thaw of Northeast Ohio weather patterns. Bricks have been coming loose from the mural and threatening it for some time, city officials said.

The library system has promised to reproduce the mural in some way on the side of the new library or inside. Until then, volunteers from the Elyria Arts Council and original artist David Pavlak have been working to re-create what they can of the train mural on the opposite side of Pioneer Plaza.

The mural on the east side of the building at 336 Broad St., home to the Elyria Arts Council, will be rehabilitated, repainted and added to, Pavlak said Thursday.

Crews were out pulling deteriorated or damaged bricks and removing damaged mortar for replacement as Pavlak spoke.

“What our plans are is to replicate everything on the mural that’s going to be torn down onto our mural here,” he said, pointing at the side of the Arts Council building. That includes a train below the three arches and a train station “filled with people.”

On the back side of 336 Broad St., facing Second Street, Pavlak said he will repaint the waterfall and horses from the train mural.

Assisting on the project were artist Megan Rowe — treasurer and past president of the Elyria Arts Council — and her husband, Marty. Marty Rowe said this will be his third summer working on the mural.

“I’m not an artist,” he said, and helped by using a roller on “the large parts.” He joked “I was laid off” when it came to putting in faces and clothing, which were done by his wife.

The problem with soft interior wall or “backer” bricks is that they absorb moisture, unlike exterior bricks, Marty Rowe explained. A combination of weather and the anti-graffiti coating on the already soft bricks may have exacerbated the damage by not allowing the brick to “breathe,” he said.

More maintenance will be needed on the west side mural in time, as well as touch-up work to make them blend again, Marty Rowe said.

For those who want a piece of the soon-to-be-demolished east building mural of the train, the Elyria Arts Council has asked the demolition company on the project to save what bricks they can during the demolition process.

Pavlak said he hopes to have a fundraiser, possibly around Memorial Day, where the Arts Council serves hot dogs and people can stop by Pioneer Plaza to purchase any leftover bricks with paint on them from the lost mural. More information will follow in a post on the Elyria Arts Council Facebook page, he said.

“A lot of people have been asking us to save them a brick, and we always hoped we would be able to,” Pavlak said. “If people want us artists to sign every brick, that will be available to anybody.”

Neither Pavlak nor Marty Rowe said they had any emotional attachment to the mural that will have to come down.

The artwork “doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to the city,” Marty Rowe said. “If it comes down, well, that’s progress. A lot of people are very nostalgic about it; they don’t want to see it come down. But again, it’s progress. I have to be (OK with it), have to accept it.”

“I can only speak for myself, and I can say as an artist who has been selling paintings for 50 years, I do not get emotionally attached to anything I do,” Pavlak said. “And I looked at this as a job I got paid for, just like one of my old paintings. I don’t care what happens to it after you buy it from me. I am not emotionally attached to this mural. I think the public is far more attached to it than I could ever be.”

Contact Bruce Bishop at (440) 329-7242 or bbishop@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @bruce_bishop. Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’brien@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @daveobrienCT.


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