Local organizations unveil public art display at Mill Creek Junior Baseball League
By Jordyn Grzelewski
Of the eight newly installed paintings on display at the Mill Creek Junior Baseball League fields on the city’s West Side, one stands out in particular to Janet Kramer Helsel, whose father, Robert Kramer, helped found the league more than 60 years ago.
“It would remind him of his wife,” she said fondly of a striking portrait of a red-headed woman winding up to swing a baseball bat. The painting, which now hangs near an office building named after Helsel’s father, is one of eight reproductions of baseball-themed paintings at the Butler Institute of American Art that, thanks to the work of several local nonprofit groups, are on display at the fields.
“I am an artist myself,” Helsel said. “So when this came about, I was just thrilled to death. ... To have it down here on the fields – it just makes my heart feel good.”
Representatives of the league, the Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association and Museum Without Walls on Friday unveiled the public art project that was funded by the Raymond John Wean Foundation.
“We’re here to celebrate partnerships,” said John Slanina, president of the neighborhood association. “To me, it means that this space is a vibrant one [for] families and individuals that come to live here, children [who] come to learn the sport of baseball. ... Hopefully it’s calling you to say, ‘Come on in.’”
Bill Helsel, league president (and Janet’s husband), also expressed excitement about the project, saying, “We are very happy and honored to have the Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association put up pictures to beautify this area. Being the only baseball league in Youngstown, we still have over 500 players. ... We pride ourselves on upgrading the facilities every year.”
Museum Without Walls, a local grass-roots program dedicated to placing public art displays in unique locations, spearheaded procurement and installation of the eight pieces, which are reproductions of: the “Spring Training” series by Max Mason; “Home Run Queen” by L.E. Schneider; “Sante Fe” by Vincent Scilla; “Roberto Clemente” by Lance Richbourg; and “Minor League” by Clyde Singer.
Standing proudly in front of the Singer painting, Museum Without Walls founder John Carlton noted that the artist was a mentor of his.
“It’s great to see children and young adults being exposed to art in a unique place,” he said of the project.
Friday also marked the start of the neighborhood association’s “Mill Creek Maple” fundraiser. Proceeds from maple syrup sales (available at Fellows Riverside Gardens) will help the group sponsor a junior league baseball team.