Mural offers striking image for Valor Home in Lorain

Family & Community Services, Inc.

LORAIN, Ohio – “Lady Liberty” towers with an upraised sword, flanked by a mighty lion, on the side of Valor Home, a residential facility for homeless veterans that is getting a new, distinctively identifying exterior mural.

The work is the latest project of Amherst artist Mike Sekletar, 40, who in recent years has completed three giant murals on a building in his hometown, saluting the veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the war in Vietnam.
Valor Home mural provides identity to home for vets

Brian Goodwin, 38, also of Amherst, who helped on the Korean War mural has joined Sekletar on this latest project that Goodwin has named “Lady Liberty.”

The 28-foot-tall design that is a composite of three main elements.

The figure is taken from a World War I U.S. Navy poster – “The sword is drawn, the Navy upholds it.”

The face is drawn from a work, “America,” by American sculptor Hiram Powers in the 1850s.

And the lion is drawn from “the lion of Belfort” sculpture by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the same artist who created the Statue of Liberty.

Sekletar and Goodwin have been working on the mural for the past two weeks and expect to be finished in another two weeks, weather permitting.

Sekletar said they’re trying something new for this mural in re-creating a sculptural, three-dimensional look on a flat surface.

“It’s a learning process, which makes it challenging, but also more rewarding,” Goodwin said.

“We wanted something kind-of timeless, not necessarily to do with war at all,” Sekletar added. “We just wanted something kind-of iconic and just, I guess noble would be a word.”

Lady Liberty is intended to project an image of protection, pride and patriotism, according to the artists. “They (Valor Home) kind-of gave us free rein, and we came up with this idea, they loved it, and here we are,” Sekletar said.

Assembling the mural has progress much the same as their past works, starting with a preliminary, overall sketch of the design; sometimes using a “pouncing” technique of transferring images to the wall by punching the outlines through paper, marking the art in charcoal.

Standard artists’ oil paints are used, and later covered with a weather-resistant sealer.

The mural project originated with a Valor Home resident last year, according to Gloria Cash, senior support worker.

A fund-raising campaign was launched as the idea gained momentum, and “everybody just pretty much ran with it,” Cash said.

Thus far, more than $18,000 has been raised to cover the cost of the mural, lighting and American flags to highlight the work of art.

Sandra Wright, Valor Home program manager, said that when it came to the mural design, “We wanted to portray the respect of the veterans, and the respect that we have for them for serving our country.

“That’s the idea we wanted to portray through the mural, as opposed to some kind of combat scenario,” she added.

The mural also will help to identify the Valor Home facility, 221 West 21st Street, which can be easily overlooked in its institutional brick anonymity.

“Everybody who has driven by that I know personally has said that it’s a beautiful mural, and they can’t wait until it gets finished,” Wright said. “They didn’t know that Valor Home was here. They knew it existed in Lorain County, they just didn’t know the location.

“I think this is going to speak volumes as to where the location is, especially after we light it up,” she added.

Valor Home is one of several residential facilities for homeless veterans in Lorain, Summit, Trumbull and Portage counties operated by the nonprofit Family and Community Services agency in Ravenna. The transitional housing facilities are funded by stipends from the Department of Veterans Affairs, money from the state, and private grants and donations.

The homes also offer programs enabling homeless vets to find jobs, education, and physical and mental rehabilitation; resolve legal issues; and ultimately move into their own residences. The goal is self-sufficiency.

Goodwin is a cook at the Valor Home in Lorain, and Sekletar volunteers at the facility.

So the artists, who have known each other since the third grade, had a personal interest in making sure they get the mural’s message right.

Goodwin said that message – taken from Roman historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus — will be painted on a scroll held by Lady Liberty. “The message mainly is, ‘In valor there is hope,’ to give these guys hope in their transition,” he explained.

Sekletar also noted, “We wanted to let people know the Valor Home is here, and raise awareness as well what the Valor Home does for veterans.”

Ideally, after seeing the mural, “people will think about it, and donate to the home itself, clothing and food, whatever they need,” he added.

The artists won’t have a lot of time to rest on their laurels once they finish Lady Liberty.

This summer they plan to add another mural to their collection in downtown Amherst. That mural will honor veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, including those lost from Lorain County.