Work Begins on Another Mural in Downtown Youngstown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The city’s newest mural project is now taking shape and it promises to be among the most visible.

Bob Barko began work Friday night on a public art project on the façade of the former State Theater on Federal Street, downtown. Next to it will be a 42-foot long reproduction of Barko’s “Here in Youngstown” mural. It will be mounted on fencing in front of an empty lot.

Barko had been planning the project for a year but the magnitude of it didn’t hit him until the work began.

“How cool is this? I’m going to have a piece of art on Federal Street in downtown Youngstown,” he said.

Barko described the project as “a love letter to the city, a thank-you… If the city wasn’t giving me the inspiration that she does, I would not be doing this. I appreciate the spirit of Youngstown.”

He started a fundraising project this year with a goal of $8,000 to cover expenses and wound up with $11,000. He is donating his time to the project, which he expects to complete by the end of the month.

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On Friday night, Barko and his crew mounted a wooden covering over the front entranceway to the State Theater’s façade, which is all that remains of the building at 213 W. Federal St. Using a projector that night, Barko traced the lines onto the entranceway and began painting them in on Saturday.

The Youngstown-based fine graphic artist, who owns Steel Town Studios, is known for his collages of city scenes and people. 

When he completed “Here in Youngstown” in 2008, it was 24 feet long and six feet high, with 62 images.

Barko recently completed two more panels, extending it to 32 feet, and with 92 images.

The depictions include historical figures John Young and Col. Caleb Wick; entertainers Maureen McGovern, Ed O’Neill and Kool and the Gang; Jim Tressel, both as Ohio State University football coach and Youngstown State University president; boxing champions Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Kelly Pavlik; Mill Creek Park, the now-gone Idora Park, and many others. 

The property is owned by Strollo Architects Inc.

“It is a missing tooth in the city’s landscape, and we are capping it,” Barko said.

A six-foot-high fence currently at the site will be raised to 12 feet. The top six feet will be the mural; the bottom six feet will be a key that will give the name or title of all 92 persons and structures on it, as well as an artist’s statement and other information.

“You will be able to see it driving by even if there are cars parked in front of it,” Barko said.

The banner is being printed by Lamar Advertising, and will use a mesh-like material with many small holes that will allow wind to go through it, said the artist.

Barko’s State Theater project is the second mural currently being put up in the downtown area. 

Students in a public art class at Youngstown State University taught by Professor Dragana Crnjak are painting a mural they created on a concrete wall on Andrews Avenue. It also has scenes of the city’s past and present icons, but is abstract in nature.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.