PIQUA – A new mural depicting Piqua’s early history soon will be visible on the former Atlantis Building at 101 E. High St.
The mural, said Ruth Koon, who chairs Mainstreet Piqua’s Beautification Committee, is hopefully the first of more to be considered for the downtown area.
The artist, Eric Henn, is based in Franklin, just south of Dayton. On May 26, Henn began prepping the second-story area, which already featured a mural that had been in place for 40 years.
“This is a great little town,” Henn said. “I grew up in a small town like this.”
Henn’s credentials include decorating water towers, industrial tanks and feature walls at malls and amusement parks across the country. “I’ve worked from Los Angeles to Australia,” he noted.
Henn began his artistic career painting surfboards and T-shirts in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He was “discovered,” he said, after painting a wall at a mall in Texas.
“An oil businessman saw the wall and hired me to paint oil tanks,” he said.
Henn’s work took off. This past winter, he did a job for Knott’s Berry Farm theme park in Los Angeles and he’s currently finishing up a project in Nashville. Locally, his work can be found on Marathon tanks in Findlay — Flag City, U.S.A. — as well as murals similar to those he’s doing in Piqua, Miamisburg and Franklin.
Henn said the Piqua job should take from four to six weeks. After he completes the initial drawing, his employees — his daughters and girlfriend — will fill in all the color. “I’ll do the finishing touches,” Henn said.
The new mural design was a collaboration between Koon, Mainstreet Piqua Executive Director Lorna Swisher, and Brian Quinter, the owner of the building. A sketch of the design was then presented to the Mainstreet Beautification Committee for final input and approval.
It will depict Piqua’s earliest settler, a Native American with colorful headdress and the Miami-Erie Canal.
“We’ve been talking for a couple years that we wanted to do something with that prominent wall in our downtown,” Koon said.
As a downtown business owner, Quinter is very excited about this visible improvement to the building and ultimately, the downtown.
The committee took a tour to see some of Henn’s work south of Dayton. “He is so well-known and does beautiful work,” Koon said. “He came to Piqua and we met with him and described what we wanted.”
Koon said the committee wanted the mural to “be timeless, tasteful and colorful and represent Piqua’s history. That was very important to us.
“It’s going to be a colorful, tasteful and timeless mural — it checks all three boxes,” she said.
To help pay for the project, Koon said Mainstreet Piqua applied to several local foundations and support for the project was robust.
“We have been blessed with foundation support from several local sources and we are extremely thankful. We were also able to use funds from our ongoing beautification program,” Swisher said. “Each year, we raise funds for our downtown planter program and other significant beautification projects in downtown Piqua. We receive support from many, many households and businesses each year.”
Grant funders for this project include Miami County Foundation, Quatman Foundation, Hartzell-Norris Charitable Trust and the Neils A. & Ruth Lundgard Foundation.
After Henn completes the first mural for the Mainstreet Beautification committee, they are planning to ask him to walk around downtown and “come up with some other ideas,” Koon said.
”We don’t want it to look cluttered or busy. We’re not doing it to be trendy, but believe it provides a very positive image and memory of our town,” she added.
For more about Henn and his work, check out his Facebook page, Eric Henn Murals, or his website at www.erichennmurals.com.
Anyone wishing to contribute to an ongoing mural program in downtown Piqua is asked to contact Mainstreet Piqua at 773-9355.