Ohio town to get mural representing Vietnam War

AMHERST, Ohio — Lorain native Mike Sekletar will be adding a new mural next to the one he did two years ago in Amherst.

Sekletar, 37, painted a 20-by-35 foot mural two years ago based on the iconic World War II flag-raising photo taken during the battle for Iwo Jima. He is adding the new mural to represent the Vietnam War on the same 248 Park Ave. building.

Amherst Mural

Artist Mike Sekletar works on his second World War II mural from atop a 12-foot scaffolding in downtown Amherst, Ohio. Sekletar’s first Amherst mural was painted two years ago, featuring a scene from the Battle of Iwo Jima. (Sam Greene/Morning Journal)

“I wanted to recognize the Vietnam era with this mural,” Sekletar said. “After going through a lot of images, I saw “Reflections” by Lee Teter. It was a moving and touching piece that just seemed to fit perfectly.”

Sekletar, who lives in Amherst, has started a 16-by-35 foot rendition of “Reflections,” which depicts a man visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., while ghostly images of his fallen comrades greet him.

Sekletar was able to get permission to copy the painting from Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 172 in Cumberland, Md., who own the rights to the image. When he is done, the reproduction of “Reflections” will be the largest in the United States.

“He started the layout on Monday,” said his father, John Sekletar. “We put a projection of the image on the wall and he outlined the sensitive points.”

Sekletar, along with his partner who helped him on the Iwo Jima mural, Ryan Shannon, 24, believe that they should be able to finish the mural within a month and a half.

“The time frame depends upon weather and how busy our schedules are,” Sekletar said. “It’s a pretty intense piece with a lot of details and names in it.”

John Sekletar, 62, said the plan is to dedicate the mural on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

Sekletar said he has a very strong art history background. After graduating from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1998, he began a career in graphic design. As the need for graphic designs dwindled due to an overabundance of designers, Sekletar began to get back into hand-drawn art.

“Hand art is a style that is getting lost,” Sekletar said. “At this point, kids are able to do graphic design. Hand art is a skill that not many people have.”

The Iwo Jima mural was the first exterior mural that he had ever done, Sekletar said.

“I am just enjoying doing something that uses my abilities,” he said.

The murals are not cheap. However, Sekletar has not had to spend much of his own money due to the donations and fundraisers that have allowed the murals to be painted.

“We are selling engraved pavers,” Sekletar said. “People can buy a paver and it gets put at the base of the building. I’m hoping to get pavers to go the length of the entire wall.”

In addition to the pavers, there are a number of dinners coming up to raise money for Sekletar’s mural.

“The American Legion is hosting a steak dinner fundraiser on June 29,” John Sekletar said.

Local businesses have also allowed Sekletar to place collection cans in their stores so that people can donate whatever they want.

“It’s kind of like a grassroots-style donation,” Sekletar said.

Additional donations can be made by sending the donation to: First Merit Bank, c/o Park Avenue Mural Project, 160 Park Ave., Amherst, OH 44001.

As a Vietnam Veteran who served in the Navy off the coast of Vietnam, John Sekletar said that the mural will mean a lot to people his age and those who served during the war.

“Lots of people lost loved ones and friends in that war,” he said. “This mural will mean a lot to anyone impacted by the Vietnam War.”

John Sekletar said that he is proud of his son for giving his time to do things like the mural.

“He just loves to give back,” John Sekletar said. “He’s a very humble kid. Mike isn’t in it for the money, he just enjoys what he is doing.”

While not looking past the current undertaking, Sekletar said that he would eventually like to fill the whole wall.

“I don’t have it figured out 100 percent at all,” Sekletar said. “I know I don’t want to do picture after picture after picture, though. I want to kind of blend everything together in collage-like image.”

For more information on the project, visit www.amherstveteransmural.com.

 

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