Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Colorful past captured in 150th poster

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 6/18/2014

Matt Gifford hasn’t lived in Ottawa since 2005, but he might understand the history of the city better than most people.

“I feel like I have learned the courthouse and its architecture better than I ever have all those years growing up,” he said.

Matt Gifford hasn’t lived in Ottawa since 2005, but he might understand the history of the city better than most people.

“I feel like I have learned the courthouse and its architecture better than I ever have all those years growing up,” he said.

Gifford, a 26-year-old freelance artist who now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, crafted a poster design to represent the history of the City of Ottawa for its 150th birthday. The poster is part of the celebration of the city’s landmark anniversary, Jeanny Sharp, Herald editor and publisher and who is chairing a steering committee organizing the community celebration, said. The limited edition poster will be on sale for $25 soon, Sharp said.

They can be pre-ordered at The Herald and on the Ottawa sesquicentennial website, ottawa150.com

The poster consists of 19 historic and iconic images that make up the history of Ottawa, including the Franklin County Courthouse and Tauy Jones Hall at Ottawa University, among others.

Gifford was commissioned for the project after Sharp remembered him as one of the artists who submitted designs for the mural at Edward E. Haley Community Park, Second and Main streets, Ottawa. Gifford signed on, crafting the poster to include 15 historical images Sharp and Deb Barker, Franklin County Historical Society director, thought best represented the city.

Gifford still had latitude to add his own twist to the piece, such as the inclusion of an image of The Star Laundry heating boiler that exploded Dec. 27, 1912, from 120 N. Main St. and launched across a block and a half of Main Street.

“The result is kind of a whimsical art poster,” Sharp said. “I think he’s done kind of an interesting job putting the facts of the [historical] elements in a frame. Some of them are further back in history than others, like the [heating boiler] that blew up. That’s just kind of fun. That didn’t have to be there; he just liked that element.”

Other imagery used for the poster includes Giego, the Ottawa University mascot who only is portrayed by a member of the Ottawa Tribe, she said.

“We wanted to have that because OU is celebrating its 150th year soon as well,” Sharp said.

Sharp also enjoyed Gifford’s portrayal of “moving history” with a train representing Ottawa’s history with the railroad and old-fashioned cars representing the Ol’ Marais River Run and Car Show.

“I really enjoy that he married up some of the essential transportation elements and evolution through the years,” Sharp said. “He has the vehicles from the car show, and he also has the train, as an important of Ottawa’s development was the train.”

Gifford was raised in Ottawa and graduated from Ottawa High School in 2005. He then attended the University of Kansas and eventually made his way to Nashville where he has become a freelance artist, he said.

“It feels wonderful to contribute something back to my home town,” Gifford said of the poster project. “It made me appreciate the city much more because it’s allowed me to learn a lot about it, and it’s very easy to take where you grew up for granted and move on and forget it. Upon reading a lot about Ottawa’s history for inspiration and looking at historical photos you learn a lot of cool things happened there.”

Crafting the poster allowed him to reconnect to his hometown, he said.

“You can’t help but remember when you go over these locations and images,” he said. “You learn it very intimately.”

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