By Kevin Greer
In celebration of the milestone 150th Anniversary this summer, you will find new public art across Lakeside’s grounds which seeks to tell stories, add beauty, inspire and spark conversation. One of the key initiatives is the addition of a mural in the heart of Lakeside’s business district. Additionally, with the support and vision of the Sesquicentennial Committee, there is a series of artistic panels currently being created at the Rhein Center. These panels will be placed throughout Lakeside as they are completed during this season.
The mural project is set to begin June 26. At the onset of the project, Vice President of Programming Jeannie Fleming-Gifford and Lakesider Linda Huber contacted a local artist who is well known for her work throughout the area.
Huron resident Beth Sage, owner of Sagebrush Artistry, will paint a 10-foot high by 14-foot wide mural along Second Street, on the wall between The Fine Print Bookstore and Miss Mercedes.
Sage met with Fleming-Gifford and Huber for a consultation in September 2022. As the two discussed the possibility of a wing mural, Sage jokingly suggested incorporating a familiar Lakeside insect— the mayfly. Though they shared a laugh at first, they quickly realized that their idea might actually take flight.
You may be familiar with wing murals in cities like Nashville, New York and Chicago, which have become tourist photo-ops. The inspiration behind Sage’s wing murals is closer to heart.
Sage dedicates her wing murals to her cousin’s daughter, Leah Johnson, who died in April 2022 at the young age of 13 after a three-year battle with cancer. Sage painted her first sets of what she calls “Wings of Hope” in Willard’s elementary and high schools. She also painted wings on a mural at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Sandusky.
Each set of wings she paints is numbered and she adds the initials “LJ” to the mural.
“You just don’t see murals with wings around here,” Sage said. “Leah is the inspiration for the wings. She was just the most inspiring, upbeat girl.”
According to Sage, the mayfly wings will be painted with several shades of green, cream and brown. The wings will be set against a sky-blue background, highlighted with soft, creamy-white clouds. Sage plans to integrate some of Lakeside’s favorite flowers and grasses in the mural. In total, she will use anywhere from 20-30 different shades and custom mixed colors to create this piece.
Sage will start working on the Lakeside mural in mid-June. Weather permitting, it will be completed by July 8.
Sage was one of eight children raised on a farm in Fremont, Ohio. From a young age, she developed her artistic skills through one of her favorite spring chores – repainting old yard signs.
“I think that’s where it got started,” Sage said. “I was halfway decent at painting, so everybody else did other things.”
Sage painted her first mural as part of a senior project at St. Joseph’s Central Catholic High School. It was a 4-foot by 8-foot painting on plywood representing different aspects of the school. The piece hung in the gym until they renovated it about 10 years ago. The school gave it back to Sage and she now uses it in her studio as a drafting table.
“I took art all four years in high school,” Sage said. “I primarily sketched, so I was really nervous about actually painting. During my junior and senior years, they started introducing more painting and it took off from there.”
After getting married, Sage and her husband moved to Bellevue to raise their family. She took her work to local craft shows for a few years, then opened Sagebrush in 1996 after her two kids started school. The downtown Bellevue store had 22 vendors with painted furniture and other artwork. When one Cleveland woman bought a piece of her painted furniture, another door opened for Sage.
“She wanted to know if I would paint her offices to match the furniture,” Sage said. “It snowballed from there.”
Sage closed the store in 2000 to concentrate on her new business, Sagebrush Artistry. During her first 15 years under Sagebrush Artistry, Sage primarily did smaller, residential work. Now, she prefers the challenge of larger commercial projects.
She has painted numerous murals on businesses all over the area, but some of her favorite assignments are in schools. She has added artwork to hallways and gymnasiums in approximately 150 Ohio schools, and she is often asked to speak with students about her work.
“In an elementary school or high school, they’ll bring students to observe and ask questions,” Sage said. “Sometimes they’ll let me go in and talk with the art classes about how I got started. When I go to an elementary school, the kids say, ‘Oh the painting lady is back.’ I really enjoy that.”
Sage’s largest mural is 204 feet wide by 9 feet high in the science hallway at Clyde High School. The project took about 14 weeks to complete. She is currently putting the finishing touches on a mural of similar size at Willard High School featuring every all-state athlete in the school’s history.
Some of her work may look familiar to you. If you drive north on U.S. 250 (Milan Road) in Perkins Twp., you’ll see her work on the wall outside Sandusky Bay Pancake House. Sage has also painted five large murals as part of the Paden Lane revitalization project in Clyde
Through her career, Sage has lost count of exactly how many murals she has completed. She has never advertised her business, so clients often hear about her business by word of mouth or through Sagebrush Artistry’s Facebook page.
She gets to know clients through a collaborative consultation phase, bouncing ideas off one another to create a vision for the final product. At a client’s request, she may incorporate elements from her previous work, but she will never paint the same mural twice.
With a schedule booked through the end of 2023, Sage has become very selective about taking on new projects. To Sage, the project ermust have meaning. That’s what her work is all about.