By SCOTT COTTOS
As a matter of coincidence, the sculptures that will stand in downtown Fostoria for about the next year will have an area flavor.
Artists from Northwest Ohio created five of the eight works that will be brought in at approximately 9 a.m. Tuesday through the Fostoria Visitor’s Bureau’s third year of involvement with the Midwest Sculpture Initiative outdoor sculpture exhibit.
Michele Cochran, community development/tourism director of the Fostoria Economic Development Corporation and Fostoria Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau, is joined on the local selection committee for the program by Renee Smith, FEDC executive director; Sarah Stephens Krupp, chamber/small-business director; Browning Payne, president of the Fostoria Community Arts Council; and Toni Lucadello, a sculptor and former art teacher.
The panel looks at more than 200 slides before selecting works they’d like to bring to the city. “Brainstorm” and “Kaleidoscope,” by Monclova Township’s Pamela Reithmeier were chosen, along with “Through” by Ottawa Hills’ Todd Kime; “Harp I” by Genoa’s Mike Sohikian and “Heatwave” by Toledo’s Robert Garcia.
All fit into this year’s theme of “uniquely colorful and interactive.”
“This time it worked out that a lot of the artists are from Northwest Ohio,” Cochran said. “It just kind of worked out that way. It’s like, that must have been our taste this year. We really look at the sculpture and we don’t even necessarily know who the artist is as we’re looking at the slides.”
This year’s other selections are “Morning Glory Bench II” by Jim Gallucci of Greensboro, North Carolina; “Curves” by Ray Katz of Pontiac, Michigan; and “Homer Says Not Today” by Ric Leichliter of Sugar Grove.
The interactive design of Gallucci’s work allows an observer to talk into the flowers for an auditory effect, the visitor’s bureau said.
Workers on Tuesday will be moving out the works that have been in the city for the last year at the same time as they are bringing in the new ones, so, Cochran said, spectators downtown should be aware of the equipment, as well as the continuing statewide request for social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cochran thinks it’ll be a welcome break for citizens from the everyday routine brought on by the pandemic.
“Everyone’s kind of had to stay at home for a while,” she said. “So, this is something new. They can get out and walk around, so we’re extra excited this year.”
Part of the MSI program allows the visitor’s bureau to receive a commission on the sale of any of the works, and Cochran said that has helped in Fostoria being able to continue bringing works to the city.
A private collector purchased Lucadello’s “Dark Energy” in 2018, when the Visitor’s Bureau also received a grant and a personal donation to purchase Leichliter’s “Promise to Flower” as a permanent addition next to Kaubisch Memorial Public Library in honor of Mark Mullins, the father of the namesake of the donating Gregory Mullins foundation.
Last year, the city received a grant from The Mennel Milling Community Improvement Fund of the Greater Fostoria Community Foundation to buy Gallucci’s “Creatures of the Sky Arch,” which will move from its present spot at the intersection of Tiffin and Main streets to the parkette that is being developed at the corner of North and Main.
The Midwest Sculpture Initiative group asks for a commitment to fund at least eight sculptures each year, and the sculptor receives a stipend for the use of their pieces. MSI also charges what the visitor’s bureau termed a “modest” fee for project administration and installation.
Funding for this year’s local exhibit has come from:
Platinum Level: Henry H. Geary Jr. Memorial Foundation; Don and Louise Mennel; the Gregory Mullins Advised Fund of The Community Foundation of Northeast Florida; Joe and Brenda Stearns.
Silver Level: Clouse Construction Corporation.
Bronze Level: The Ronald & Evelyn Burns Family Donor Advised Fund of the Greater Fostoria Community Foundation; Flippin’ Jimmy’s restaurant; the Fostoria Community Arts Council; POET Biorefining; Sally Reed; Eugene and Betty Schalk.
Cochran said she’s enjoyed seeing the participation in the sculpture exhibit capture the fancy of the city.
“It’s been interesting,” she said. “We didn’t really know what to expect because it’s something so different than whatever had really ever been done. It’s just been phenomenal. That first year, especially, when the chamber visitor’s bureau office was right on Main Street, we would see people walking around and talking pictures and the kids were with them, and it just continued to grow. Because we’re still getting the suppport, I know the community is still excited about it. And it’s just something that makes us unique, and we’re always looking for something to be unique.
“A lot of people know us for our glass and rail roots and everything, but just trying to go in the art direction, it’s just something a little bit different that’s really catching on. We’ve sold three pieces in our first two years. I think we’ve really tapped into, I think, a hidden asset. It’s something that the people do still want to see and participate in.”