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The Suburbanite
  • Charita Goshay: NFL history gets boost from ArtsinStark, HOF

  • On this 92nd anniversary of the league’s birth, plans are in place to launch “The Eleven: Greatest Moments in Pro Football History,” an homage to the NFL in the form of 11 public art pieces, most of which will be located in downtown Canton.

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  • The southwest corner of Second Street and Cleveland Avenue SW wasn’t always occupied by the Frank T. Bow Federal Building.
    On Sept. 17, 1920, it was home to a car dealership for the short-lived Hupmobile line. It was in this space, in Ralph Hay’s showroom, that the NFL was born.
    On this 92nd anniversary of the league’s birth, plans are in place to launch “The Eleven: Greatest Moments in Pro Football History,” an homage to the NFL in the form of 11 public art pieces, most of which will be located in downtown Canton.
    A joint effort of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and ArtsinStark, the pieces will be commissioned starting this year.
    “Public art is supposed to celebrate a place,” Robb Hankins, ArtsinStark president and CEO, said. “And part of the total uniqueness of Canton is the Hall of Fame and the birthplace of the NFL. Now, even though some folks will say that football gets an awful lot of attention, it’s totally valid for this project to celebrate the game.
    “The second goal is, we want this to be a major tourist attraction, to drive more visitors to see the 11 moments. It should be so amazing that even if you’re not sports fan, you’d still want to see it.”
    EXCEPTIONAL, DARING
    The 11 moments are based on a chapter from the Hall of Fame’s new book marking its 50th anniversary in 2013.
    Hankins said the callout for artists to apply for a commission went out about two weeks ago.
    The budget for each piece is about $150,000. From this, the artist will be responsible for design, fabrication, installation and insurance of the artwork.
    A selection committee chaired by Sue Timken will pick three finalists. So far, about 45 artists have responded. Finalists will receive $3,500 each to cover the cost of traveling to Canton and building their models.
    The goal is for the first piece to be completed in time for the hall’s 50th anniversary next year.
    “The first piece will set the stage for the next 10,” Hankins said.
    “It needs to be exceptional and daring.”
    The project, he added, also will feature a 9- by-18 foot “footprint” at the site of the Bow building — space for an artist “to create things we can’t even imagine.”
    RALPH HAY WAY
    James Parker has been beating the drum for a greater NFL presence in downtown Canton for years. Parker often takes civic leaders to task for not doing more to honor the league’s “barn stones,” Canton-connected pioneers including Hay, who owned the Canton Bulldogs but, inexplicably, is not in the Hall of Fame; Jim Thorpe, Carl Strock, Lester Higgins, Jack Cusak and Pete Calac, a Thorpe teammate-turned-city police officer.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I think it’s a great thing,” Parker said of the art project. “Sept. 17, 1920, was the day real men took a real risk and took their $50, $100 or $500 investments and parlayed it into a billion-dollar franchise.”
    Parker, who has proposed such ideas as a jury room named for Alan Page, a Canton native, enshrinee and Minnesota Supreme Court justice, said he still would like to see a “Football Heritage Corridor,” arguing that the modern era has glossed over contributions by the game’s pioneers.
    “The first Hall of Fame ceremony, the families weren’t even invited because they wanted star power,” he said. “It would be nice this year (2013) if some of the surviving family members from that class could be invited.”
    In recent months, some Pro Football Hall of Fame signage has been posted along Cleveland Avenue, starting at Ninth Street NW.
    “It would be nice to enhance it,” Parker said. “ ‘Ralph Hay Way’ would go nicely.”
    For more information about The Eleven project, contact ArtsinStark at 330-453-1075 or visit www.artsinstark.com.