“Reintegration of Pro Football” Painting and Mural to be Unveiled

On Friday August 5 at 4:30 pm a painting commemorating The Reintegration of Pro Football — as well as a 30 foot by 90 foot mural of that painting — will be unveiled at the Bliss Parking Deck at 238 Cleveland Avenue NW in downtown Canton. The artwork is part of The ELEVEN, a $2.2 million public art series of ArtsinStark and The Pro Football Hall of Fame celebrating the greatest moments in professional football history. “In 1946, 70 years ago, a full year before Jackie Robinson began playing professional baseball, four African American football players brought about the permanent reintegration of pro football,” says ArtsinStark CEO Robb Hankins. “This art celebrates these heroic men: Marion Motley, Bill Willis, Woody Strode, and Kenny Washington.” The artist is Paul Collins from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Collins designed the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize Medal, won the People’s Choice Award in Paris, and has been voted one of the top 20 painters in America. A documentary called “The Forgotten Four” was released last year to tell the story of these four athletes. The public is invited to attend the 30 minute ceremony.

There had been a handful of African American players in pro football between 1904 and 1933, but from 1934 to 1946 — pro football had its own color barrier. That all changed in 1946, when the Los Angeles Rams signed Strode and Washington, and the Cleveland Browns signed Motley and Willis. This moment of The ELEVEN is being sponsored by 1) The George H. Deuble Foundation,
2) The Hoover Foundation, 3) Stark Community Foundation, and 4) Timken Foundation of Canton. In-kind Supporters are Hilscher-Clarke Electric and KebCo Precision Fabricators.

This is the fourth moment of The ELEVEN to be unveiled, and the first mural. In August, 2014 artist Michael Clapper presented the first moment, his 25-foot steel and glass sculpture The Birth of the NFL. In August, 2015 artist Gail Folwell delivered the second moment, her five bronze figure sculpture The NFL Draft. And just this June artist David Griggs installed his steel and granite sculpture The AFL/NFL Merger. “The eleven monumental pieces of public art will all be within walking distance of one another in downtown Canton,” says ArtsinStark Board Chair Max Deuble, “and our goal is to have all of them done by 2020 for the 100th anniversary of the NFL.”

Paul Collins created the 30-painting series “Other Voices- A Native American Tableau” which opened in New York and then went to Paris. Collins was commissioned by the Amway Japan Corporation to create paintings on the customs of the Japanese people. His “Voices of Israel” exhibit of 25 paintings on the history of Israel has toured all over the U.S. He was one of 23 painters commissioned by Anheuser Busch to create works celebrating African leaders, which led to him being featured in a TV commercial commemorating the original airing of “Roots.” He is the first African-American artist to paint the portrait of a sitting President of the United States.

BACKGROUND: ArtsinStark — Kids, Jobs, Communities. We are a 46 year old private, non-profit organization that gives out grants, manages the Cultural Center, runs the Annual Arts Campaign, and much more (Canton Arts District, First Fridays, SmArts Program in the schools, 20/20 Vision, and the ELEVEN). More at www.ArtsinStark.com. Our annual budget is $3 million. What we don’t earn, we raise each spring through the Annual Arts Campaign. In May 2016 the Campaign raised $1.7 million— to become the only united arts fund drive in America to ever make goal for 11 years in a row. (Over the last decade we have increased private sector giving to the arts by 85%.)