Celebrated Toledo metal sculptor Sam Briseno suggests a stunning solution to a blighted street corner
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Renown Toledo millright/metal sculptor Sam Briseno Tuesday evening offered the Toledo City Council to take an unsightly view of the gateway to Main Street off their hands if they’d give their blessing to an art project that would substantially cover it up. Briseno was talking about the old gas station at Business 20 and Main which used to have gas pumps outside and a repair shop inside and which has long been the bane of townspeople who prefer a more pleasantly inviting scene at the top of Main Street than an old run down building.
Briseno showed the council his pencil drawings of a continuous metal sculpture of salmon swimming in the sea, or perhaps in a river upstream to spawn, all against a backdrop of Oregon waves, mountains and sky. He envisions a very long building-obscuring sculpture that would draw attention to something positive rather than the blight that has dominated the corner for decades.
The council immediately embraced the idea but with a caveat from Councilor Jack Dunaway who wondered if the selection of the art and the artist should be made in a more public way – asking Toledo residents what THEY think of the idea.
Mayor Ralph Grutzmacher said a previous council some time back had proclaimed that the old gas station should not be the first thing that arriving tourists see of Toledo’s charming downtown. That observation two years ago produced attractive landscaping and a business directory sign that encourages visitors to turn right at the corner and see what Toledo is really all about. Grutzmacher said Mr. Briseno’s beautiful aquatic sculpture would be a significant enhancement to the landscape beautification as well as to Toledo’s artistic flair and it’s renown Arts District just off the downtown. Grutzmacher maintained that the landscaping was initiated by a former city council and that the present council is simply adding to that original commitment with Mr. Briseno’s generous offering to the city.
However, the no small matter of how to fund Mr. Briseno’s artistry became the second line of discussion. Mr. Briseno said he is not seeking funding from the city, but rather from art lovers in Toledo and surrounding communities as well as from noted regional arts benefactors. He told the council that he’s fully prepared to receive commissions from various donors to begin the project and build it piece by piece until it’s finished. All 150 feet of it. And at each end, carefully crafted sitting benches for those who desire to linger longer to admire the artistry.
City Councilors voiced their unanimous support for the project. As for the first act of fundraising, Mayor Grutzmacher suggested that since billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch own the Georgia Pacific mill in Toledo, the Koch Family Foundations and Philanthropy should be contacted and be made aware of the project and be solicited for a sizeable donation.