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Mural celebrates 'The Reintegration of Pro Football'

Published: August 12, 2016 10:00 AM
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On Aug. 5 at 4:30 pm, on the side of the five-story Bliss Parking Deck (238 Cleveland Avenue NW) in downtown Canton, ArtsinStark unveiled a 30 by 90 foot mural commemorating The Reintegration of Pro Football in 1946.

More than 100 artists from 33 states applied to create the painting upon which the giant mural is based.

The selection committee chose as the winner Paul Collins from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mr. Collins designed the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize Medal, won the People's Choice Award in Paris, and has been voted one of the top 20 painters in America.

"There had been a handful of African American players in pro football between 1904 and 1933," says Robb Hankins, ArtsinStark CEO, "but from 1934 to 1946 --- pro football had its own color barrier."

The mural memorializes how football history was changed forever in 1946, when the Los Angeles Rams signed Woody Strode and Kenny Washington, and the Cleveland Browns signed Marion Motley and Bill Willis.

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"The ELEVEN is a $2.2 million public art series of ArtsinStark and The Pro Football Hall of Fame," explains ArtsinStark board chair Max Deuble. "We are celebrating the greatest moments in professional football history, and these eleven monumental sculptures, murals, and multi-media art will all be within walking distance of one another in downtown Canton."

In 1946, these four African American football players brought about the permanent reintegration of pro football, a full year before Jackie Robinson did it for baseball. A eeeeeeeeeeedocumentary called "The Forgotten Four" released last year tells the story of their lives --- www.ArtsinStark.com//eleven . The Pro Football Hall of Fame selected the eleven greatest moments. ArtsinStark is raising the $2.2 million to install them and commissioning all the artists. The "Reintegration of Pro Football" moment of The ELEVEN is being sponsored by 1) The George H. Deuble Foundation, 2) The Hoover Foundation, 3) Stark Community Foundation, and 4) Timken Foundation of Canton. In-kind Supporters are Hilscher-Clarke Electric and KebCo Precision Fabricators. The goal is to have all eleven of the moments done by 2020 for the 100th anniversary of the NFL.

In August, 2014 artist Michael Clapper unveiled the first moment, his 25-foot steel and glass sculpture The Birth of the NFL. In August, 2015 artist Gail Folwell delivered to Canton the second moment, a five figure bronze sculpture memorializing The NFL Draft. This June artist David Griggs installed his steel and granite sculpture commemorating The AFL//NFL Merger. The Reintegration of Pro Football is the first mural.

Paul Collins created the 30-painting series "Other Voices- A Native American Tableau" which opened in New York and then went to Paris. Collins was commissioned by the Amway Japan Corporation to create paintings on the customs of the Japanese people.

His "Voices of Israel" exhibit of 25 paintings on the history of Israel has toured all over the U.S. He was one of 23 painters commissioned by Anheuser Busch to create works celebrating African leaders, which led to him being featured in a TV commercial commemorating the original airing of "Roots." He is the first African-American artist to paint the portrait of a sitting President of the United States.

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