PARKERSBURG – The next phase of the anti-flood mural is underway.
Artist Christopher Santer, who hails from Parkersburg and now lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, has been working for a few weeks on the next part of the project that’s underway on the wall just inside the Point Park gate.
“This is phase 2 of the project and is intended to showcase the historical signs and what the general look will look like,” Santer said. “We chose here at the entrance with its high visibility as a good starting point.”
Scenes depicted on this section of the wall include a scene of flooded Market Street during the 1913 flood and an aerial view of Blennerhassett Island.
“Throughout the only image I wanted to paint first was of Market Street during the flood,” Santer said. “This is the image I saw growing up (referring to an old photo taken from the downtown railroad bridge which also showed many people in boats).
“It’s the one I’ve always wanted to do.”
With Blennerhassett Island he sought to achieve the general shape of the island with the hint of Parkersburg in the background where the Ohio River bends.
“We all know the shape of Blennerhassett and I thought it would be a nice contrast to the architecture (of the flooded street scene),” Santer said.
The panel fades into a nearly unfinished state that will continue into next summer, he added.
Last year, Santer, along with other local artists and students, completed a section on the wall depicting colorful mountain landscapes.
The plan, over the next few summers, is to work on sections of the wall and eventually connect to the mountain scene, Santer said, adding that the overall plan calls for 20 local historic scenes that will range from the Parkersburg sign on the wall to mountain scene using the aspect of the railroad bridge downtown to provide a setting for other images specific to Parkersburg’s history.
“(Where it begins phase 2) is where I really wanted to define here how I imagined the bridge and the piers and how the sky is painted,” Santer said. “Part of the goal is to make the wall go away.”
Santer said he’s always been captivated by the railway bridge and really tries to capture the 150+ years of weathering on the sandstone and how it’s scarred, eroded and stained by recreating its details on the wall.
“It’s been really satisfying to really get that stone look,” Santer said. “(The bridge is from 1871) and that’s one of the reasons I ended up using it to organize the whole plan.
“If there’s anything that has been a defining part of Parkersburg for so long, it’s this bridge. This bridge defines Parkersburg so much and featuring it here really made sense. It was fun to paint all that rust and this corrosion.
He plans to complete his current job this week.
Santer said he has another artist lined up to do one of the future landmark panels. He wants to open other panels to other artists, but keep it in “An old postcard look.”
Future shots may involve scenes of old downtown Parkersburg, the historic riverfront when Parkersburg was a major stopover for paddle steamers traveling from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, the historic Wood County Courthouse and more. Ideas are always considered and considered.
If fundraising goes his way, Santer expects to cover about twice as much space next summer. Currently, the project is financed by private donations with the possibility that other funds will arrive later. The city has supported the preparation of the site for the current phase of the works.
More information about the project is available online at parkersburgflood.org and on the Parkersburg Floodwall Mural Project Facebook page.
“There seems to be a lot of support from the public and the response has been overwhelmingly positive and exciting both on social media and among passers-by,” Santer said. “It’s been two wonderful summers doing this and hopefully a few more summers.”