Mural design chosen for RiverScape project

Miami Valley News

Five Rivers MetroParks said it has selected a design by local artist Gae Helton for a new mural at RiverScape MetroPark. (Photo: Five Rivers MetroParks)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Five Rivers MetroParks said it has selected a design by local artist Gae Helton for a new mural at RiverScape MetroPark.

The mural will transform an unsightly concrete manhole cover, located near the RiverScape River Run whitewater feature, into a vibrant piece of public art. Helton plans to begin the mural in early June and is expected to complete the project by the end of June, depending on weather.

“This public art project will make RiverScape MetroPark, known as ‘Dayton’s front porch,’ an even more vibrant place,” said Meredith Adamisin, RiverScape MetroPark manager. “Gae Helton’s design is bright, meaningful and rewards curiosity. Public art connects viewers to something significant — in this case, inspiring a personal connection to nature in our region’s urban core — and creates a sense of place and community pride. This mural, with its thoughtful depiction of nature, will bring park visitors closer to the Great Miami River and encourage them to stay awhile.” 

The mural is part of the River Run Terrace project, which provides new amenities on RiverScape MetroPark’s south shore that complement the whitewater feature. Terraced limestone seating, which allows visitors to relax while watching people surf and paddle in the river, was recently completed.

MetroParks said other amenities will be added this summer including shade sails, comfortable seating and a rack where paddlers can store their kayaks, stand up paddleboards and other gear while they enjoy the park or explore downtown.

Plans call for the River Run Terrace to be finished in late September, depending on weather. Once complete, the space will be able to host activities, with seating for about 200 people and room for food trucks and other amenities.

This $163,000 project was funded by a private donor and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Paddling Enhancement Grant.

Helton’s mural design, inspired by the Great Miami River, connects with the river and its ecosystem. Hers was selected from 11 designs by artists who submitted entries to The Contemporary Dayton.

“Graphic waves representing the rapids sweep across the sides of the structure,” Helton said. “Whimsical depictions of the water life native to Ohio river systems — crayfish, catfish, turtle, frog, diving kingfisher, sunfish and green darters — complete the sides. The top of the structure pulls together the upper gardens of RiverScape MetroPark with the portion of the park by the river.”

A graphic designer, digital artist, quilter and painter, Helton has long called on nature for inspiration, using bright colors and up-close nature themes. She designed a nature scape mural for K-12 & TEJAS in 2018, and worked with the Dayton Police Violence Center and Dayton Children’s in 2019, adding murals to their facilities.

“We’re excited to announce the artist selected for this mural as we head into Memorial Day weekend and a really exciting summer at RiverScape MetroPark,” Adamisin said. “We’re thrilled to start offering programs and events that were paused due to the pandemic, such as bike rentals, Music@Lunch and more. Five Rivers MetroParks is fortunate to have such great partners as The Contemporary Dayton and Downtown Dayton Partnership, which have a strong connection to our creative community, to make RiverScape MetroPark an even more exciting and interesting regional destination.”

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