Four weeks into his roughly seven-week project, Dave Rickerd pauses to acknowledge a passing motorist asking if he is the artist of a massive mural being completed in Archbold.
“Congratulations,” the driver says. “It’s beautiful.”
Rickerd, a Cincinnati resident in town to create one of the largest outdoor wall murals in northwest Ohio, has weathered battering rain, wind, and temperatures hovering at 90 degrees to complete a design depicting the Village of Archbold as it is currently and at its origins. The 136-foot by 36-foot mural has become a captivating draw at the intersection of North Defiance Street and Stryker Street in the village’s business district, with people constantly stopping to admire the colorful depiction of their village and to speak to the artist.
“I totally love this,” Rickerd said Monday evening as he looked over the completed section. “To me, this is the best job in the world.”
Based on an antique printer’s tray – a sectioned wooden apparatus newspapers of old used to store individual typeset, and which later became fashionable to hold knickknacks and hang on walls – the mural depicts aspects old and new of Archbold, from it’s original settlement to Sauder Woodworking. Over half completed, it’s hoped by Mayor Brad Grime and the committee that helped create it to draw people from places far and wide and thereby add ching to the village economy.
The saga of the project began more than five years ago, when the village acquired the aged Rexall drugstore building at North Defiance and Stryker streets and knocked it down to widen the intersection and accommodate heavy truck traffic through the village. The demolition, however, revealed the huge, unsightly north wall of the Rupp Furniture Company. “It looked just horrible,” Grime said.
The village kicked in about $60,000 to cover the wall with DuPont Tyvek protective wrap as village officials began formulating a mural to cover it. In 2016, they had renown muralist Eric Grohe in mind but his price tag was over $90,000, and creating the mural design alone was hovering at about $26,000.
“The project just never got off the ground,” Grime said. “It was just going to be , I think, way too expensive. And so I think they decided to scrap it.”
When Grime became Archbold’s mayor in 2020, “I thought it was a pretty important project, so they turned the files over to me.” During his research, Grime came upon the name of muralist Dave Rickerd, a Deshler, Ohio, native. Rickerd’s murals in Deshler, Napoleon, and Grand Rapids, Ohio, impressed the mayor and the six-member committee he formed to revive the project.
Rickerd started the village mural June 1, and through 8-12 hour days has completed more than half of it. He expects to wrap the $68,000 project by mid-July. The concept is his, and took a year to produce with some give and take by Grime’s mural committee.
“It’s created an incredible social media buzz,” the mayor said. “(Rickerd’s) become pretty popular and famous in Archbold. Part of our intention was to bring some art and color into the community, put some vibrancy into the downtown. It’s been working out…We’ve had people come from all around to see it. It’s quite a spectacle.”
The mural will be funded through $20,000 the village had set aside for the project, through another $20,000 collected thus far in private and commercial donations, and through grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Black Swamp Arts Council. Grime said the hope is that donations and grant money will eventually cover the entire cost.
“We think we’ll reach that goal eventually,” he said.
Rickerd, 57, travels throughout Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky to paint murals, everywhere from bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen walls to outdoor projects.
“Any wall I can paint,” he said. He works closely with his clients, and by process of elimination determines what they want.
The Archbold mural is his biggest challenge to date, “but I wasn’t nervous at all,” he said. “When you’re here you’re painting shapes, and at this scale, when you’re painting shapes, when you step back it all comes together. It’s like solving a puzzle.”
Rickerd has been painting murals full-time the past five years, after losing work as a graphic artist after over 30 years. His artistic talent emerged early, and he spent his growing years assisting his late father, DuWayne Rickerd, a sign painter in Deshler.
“He taught me so much with painting. Painting is just fun,” Rickerd said. “It’s outside, you make your own time, your own decisions.”
While he still supports himself with freelance graphic art work over the colder months, Rickerd much prefers being a muralist.
“It’s not a job. It’s just fun,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.