Artwork keeps on giving in Columbiana

Morning Journal/Katie White Columbiana Mayor Bryan Blakeman (far left) and his parents, Kathy and Steve Blakeman, stand alongside one of the large art prints that will be for sale at the SummerFest at the Town Center Friday and Saturday.

COLUMBIANA — In September of last year a giant piece of art was unveiled to the public at the Main Street Common. This weekend, people will get a chance to buy replicas of that artwork to help fund the Harvey S. Firestone park improvement project.

Steve and Kathy Blakeman, who have headed up the project to replicate nationally known artist Ray Simon’s painting, presented copies of the finalized prints to city council at its recent meeting.

The art prints will be on sale at the SummerFest event at the Town Center June Friday and Saturday.

The Blakemans, parents of Columbiana Mayor Bryan Blakeman and owners of Valley Office Solutions and Peak I.T., sponsored and donated to the city the digitized version of Simon’s painting on display at the Common.

Simon, a Canfield native, spent nearly a year working on the piece of art that was digitally scanned in order for it be hung along the side of the building at the Common, as opposed to being painted directly on the building like a regular mural.

The Blakemans have said the digitized version can be maintained better over the years that way, since paint can fade. It also provided a way for the family to make additional copies of the original painting to sell to raise money for the Columbiana Restoration and Beautification Committee’s (R&B) park project.

“This has been much more of a project than we ever thought it would be … to some people it’s just a picture of history, to my family it is a lot more than that. I was born and raised in Columbiana. I graduated from Columbiana High School. Both of our sons were born here — our grandsons are attending here now,” Steve Blakeman said.

The artwork showcases the history of the city, going from the Joshua Dixon era to the recent Town Center development.

“We have a passion for this whole area. Because of that, we wanted to do something special, and what a better vehicle to do so than with the R&B Committee. We would like to see this print raise money for assisting with the restoration of Firestone Park,” Steve Blakeman said.

The family has made available 900 small prints, which are 7.5 inches by 28 inches for $99 each. An additional 100 small prints signed by Simon and numbered 1 through 100 will be $249.

There are 25 larger, signed and framed versions available for $5,000 each. These will also be numbered 1 through 25.

Kathy Blakeman said Simon picked out the frames for the larger prints himself. Each of the larger prints will feature the same style of frame.

She and her husband anticipate the prints will be able to raise just shy of $250,000 for the park project.

The Blakemans stressed they are not making any profit on the work, and that they have underwritten every cent of the production and are donating the prints in their entirety to the R&B.

“Finally, after this long period of time we are ready to launch this print sale,” Steve Blakeman said.