Art on an Industrial Scale at CMF’s Headquarters

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Every day, Bob Messaros would look at a long, unadorned wall at the corporate headquarters of Commercial Metal Forming and wonder how he could improve it.

Messaros, who is president and CEO of the company, wanted to enliven the space in a meaningful way.
One night, the solution came to him.

“I was walking around at 2 in the morning, and I got this idea,” he said. “I said, ‘what if we could create an experience of the scale [of our products] for our customers, suppliers and our own people who come through here?’”

Messaros got to talking with his colleagues and decided that an abstract, yet literal, piece of art could do all of that. He commissioned Dragana Crnjak, an art professor at Youngstown State University who is skilled in massive, site-specific murals, to create the piece.

Commercial Metal Forming is a 102-year-old company that makes metal tank heads at its plant on Logan Avenue in Youngstown, and at two others in Texas and California.

The heads range in size from a diameter of 4 inches to 25 feet.

Crnjak is known for the mural on a concrete wall along Logan Avenue that is approximately 1,000 feet long. She created it with her YSU students over the past two years.

“Usually, [commissioned] artists are asked to illustrate what a company does, but this was close to me because I like working on a large scale,” she said. “Our bodies are as important as our eyes in how we perceive the world. Scale is important [in art].”

Her painting shows tank heads stacked on top of each other in a pyramid of shortening lengths. The biggest one is 25 feet long – the same as the biggest tank head CMF makes.

The painting not only beautifies a once-bland stretch of wall in a compelling fashion but serves as an actual-size depiction of CMF’s products.

“When you stand in front of it, it is almost overwhelming and that presence is what we are trying to transmit to people,” Messaros said at an unveiling ceremony Thursday.

Size is something that is not fully grasped when it is mentioned as a number, Messaros said. It doesn’t fully register until a person stands next to it.

Customers who view Crnjak’s mural will instantly understand the full scope of CMF’s work, he said.
Commercial Metal Forming is a heavy industry. But to those who would ask what it has to do with art, Messaros has an answer.

“It’s a lot more than you realize,” he said. “If you spend time in our plant, you realize there’s a lot of art to the science in what our people to in Youngstown, Texas and California every single day.”

In researching her piece, Crnjak toured CMF’s plant in Youngstown to watch tank heads being made.
It was then that she understood the company’s intrinsic relationship to Youngstown’s industrial roots and its role in building the nation’s infrastructure.

She said she had “no idea what a tank head was” when she first met with Messaros. That quickly changed.

“This company is part of the history of this area,” the Bosnian-born Crnjak said, adding “even though I am not from here, I felt very connected to it.”

Pictured above: Bob Messaros, president and CEO of Commercial Metal Forming, and Dragana Crnjak stand in front of a 30-foot long painting at the company’s headquarters in Liberty. Crnjak painted the art, which shows the actual size of CMF’s products.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.