Artist adorns Ohio barns with history

The (Toledo) Blade


The command ing image of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry dwarfed Scott Hagan on Thursday as he put the finishing touches on the war hero’s coat taking form on the side of a barn near Oak Harbor.

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, high school gymnasiums and other larger-than-life canvases.

His latest project is no exception. He landed last week on the property of Ron and Bonnie Schimming. He was there to work on the fifth of what is hoped to be dozens of historically themed works on the side 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, it 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 Victory and International Peace Memorial.

“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 on 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.

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, was originally used for milk cows, steers, 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 is the artist who, in 2003, painted the state’s bicentennial logo on a barn in each of Ohio’s counties through a project with the then-Ohio Historical Society.

“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.”

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