Barn near Toledo fea­tures Com­modore Perry

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - By Roberta Ged­ert

OAK HAR­BOR, Ohio — The com­mand­ing im­age of Com­modore Oliver Haz­ard Perry dwarfed Scott Ha­gan Thurs­day as he put the fin­ish­ing touches on the war hero’s coat tak­ing form on the side of a barn in Ot­tawa County.

But then again, Ha­gan is over­shad­owed by most sub­jects he paints. Known as the Barn Artist, the Ohio na­tive goes big or he doesn’t re­ally go. He trav­els the coun­try paint­ing barns, si­los, high­school gym­na­si­ums and other larger-than-life can­vases.

His lat­est project is no ex­cep­tion. He landed this past week on the prop­erty of Ron and Bon­nie Schim­ming in Oak Har­bor, not far from Toledo. He was there to work on the fifth of what is hoped to be dozens of his­tor­i­cally themed works on the sides of Ohio barns, part of an on­go­ing project co­or­di­nated through the state’s his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety.

When Ha­gan fin­ishes, the east-fac­ing wall of the 3,200-square-foot barn will have the im­age of Com­modore Perry next to a flag bear­ing his fa­mous phrase “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” and a smaller im­age of the Perry’s Vic­tory and In­ter­na­tional Peace Me­mo­rial at Put-In-Bay.

“This is a re­ally big project. The barn is big­ger than most, it’s taller than most,” he said, ges­tur­ing be­hind him. “Perry’s head is big­ger than I am tall, so it’s a large mu­ral. I had to use a lift.”

Linda Hu­ber, a board mem­ber of the Ot­tawa County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, said the so­ci­ety scouted the area for barns that would work, came up with their theme, and sub­mit­ted the in­for­ma­tion to the Ohio His­tory Con­nec­tion, formerly the Ohio His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety in Colum­bus.

Com­modore Perry is fa­mous for com­mand­ing his naval fleet to vic­tory over the Bri­tish in the Bat­tle of Lake Erie dur­ing the War of 1812, which ef­fec­tively ended hos­til­i­ties among Amer­ica, Great Bri­tain and Canada.

“We went with Perry be­cause it rep­re­sents wa­ter and land, the best of both worlds here in our county,” Hu­ber said. “And of course, the barn rep­re­sents farm­ing here. It was just per­fect.”

The barn sits on 160 acres of farm­ing prop­erty that Bon­nie Schim­ming’s par­ents, Lester and Ma­bel Goetz, ac­quired in 1944. The bank barn, which means it was built on a hill to ac­com­mo­date live­stock on the lower level and stor­age on the up­per level, orig­i­nally was used for milk­ing cows, steer, hogs and stor­ing hay and straw mows, Bon­nie Schim­ming said.

To­day, the barn is used for equip­ment stor­age, she said.

“I think my mom and dad would have been pleased to see such at­ten­tion paid to their barn,” she said. “I think it’s a great project, to make his­tory more vis­i­ble. As fam­i­lies are driv­ing past, it’s a great way to start a con­ver­sa­tion about our his­tor­i­cal promi­nence in north­west Ohio.”

Ha­gan, 40, of Jerusalem, Ohio, in Mon­roe County, is the artist who, in 2003, painted the state’s Bi­cen­ten­nial logo on a barn in each of Ohio’s 88 coun­ties through a project with the then-Ohio His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

The per­son who co­or­di­nated that project, Steve Ge­orge, now a se­nior ad­viser with the Ohio His­tory Con­nec­tion, de­cided he wanted to try again.

“There was some­thing mag­i­cal about that (Bi­cen­ten­nial) project. It re­ally spoke to peo­ple in a way that noth­ing else we did,” Ge­orge said. “I al­ways had it in my mind to take the essence of that and turn it into some­thing that had more sub­stance to it, us­ing this old-fash­ioned, pow­er­ful way of com­mu­nity to tickle peo­ple’s in­ter­est in im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal events.”

Since the project started mov­ing in 2015, four barn mu­rals have been com­pleted, the first be­ing an im­age of 19th Pres­i­dent Ruther­ford Hayes on a barn out­side of Fre­mont, funded by the Ohio Turn­pike Com­mis­sion. Ha­gan also has painted on barns: An­nie Oak­ley in Darke County; the high school ri­valry be­tween the Mas­sil­lon Tigers and the Can­ton McKinley Bull­dogs in Stark County; and the Zoar Vil­lage bi­cen­ten­nial in Tus­carawas County.

Most have been paid for through pri­vate do­na­tions and trust funds through the so­ci­ety, Ge­orge said.

It’s been a slow process, and Ge­orge stops short of say­ing ev­ery county in the state will have a painted barn, as was done with the Bi­cen­ten­nial project, at least maybe not in his life­time. De­spite this, he is con­fi­dent there is a glut of ideas in the Buck­eye State, and he be­lieves his goal to “have them richly scat­tered across the state” is at­tain­able.

“We could do one of these a week, and never run out of top­ics,” Ge­orge said. “That’s what’s great about Ohio his­tory. We have an un­lim­ited list of ac­com­plish­ments right here in the state.”


Scott Ha­gan paints an im­age of Com­modore Oliver Haz­ard Perry on the side of an Oak Har­bor barn. The project is part of the Ohio History Con­nec­tion’s plan to have county-themed painted barns through­out Ohio.

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