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Battle display in Friendship Park

Alex Green • Jun 4, 2014 at 1:20 PM


Kelly Rigoni has a Madison street photography studio in Port Clinton, so she drives by Friendship Park every day.

The park looked a bit different Tuesday for Rigoni, who witnessed her gargantuan photographs on display for the first time.

"(My first thoughts were) is this really happening?" asked Rigoni, a lifelong county resident.

Rigoni was the first local artist chosen by the Greater Port Clinton Area Arts Council to have her art displayed on the park's wall. The council plans to choose a different artist to showcase each year.

For 12 years, the Stensen mural depicted the city's waterfront. Now Rigoni's three 14-by-16-foot photographs of the Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial hang from the same wall.

Arts council President Carol Morgan said the Stensen mural was well-liked throughout the community but the wall was deteriorating.

Their two initial options were both costly: either replace the structure, or paint a new mural.

"Financially we couldn't," Morgan said.

So, Morgan and other council members such as Mary Dare put their heads together and came up with a solution.

Their new plan was inexpensive, since the artists essentially donate their work for a year.

Rigoni said she is not interested in the money, rather, she is just happy she can contribute to the city she loves.

"I hope it can (add) to the revitalization of our town," Rigoni said. "Some people are weary of change. But I know some people who were negative about (the change) have (come) around."

The sudden appreciation for Rigoni's work may be a testament to its quality.

"(The photographs are) bringing the wall back to life," Morgan said.

Rigoni was one of many artists in town last year for the bicentennial.

She took a boat out to the scene with some friends, allowing her to get close to the action.

"Being out there amongst so many boats, it was majestic and overwhelming," she said.

Rigoni said she was trying to capture the essence of the Battle of Lake Erie through her photographs.

When a Coast Guard cutter arrived to the reenactment, Rigoni had a chance to capture what she wanted to.

The cutter orchestrated the "crossing of the 'T'", a significant move by Commodore Oliver Perry, as Rigoni snapped the perfect shot.

"The boat shot its canons and I shot mine," Rigoni said.

Of the three photographs hanging, this photograph of the 'T" hangs the middle.

In addition to Rigoni's photography, the statue, "The Captain and the Kid", has been moved back to the park after standing in two other locations.

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