Artists’ Mural is Major Topic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio

April 30, 2014

By Janet Dodrill

Valley Art Center, Chagrin Falls, Ohio mural to be painted over.

Valley Art Center, Chagrin Falls, Ohio mural to be painted over. (Photo: Janet Dodrill)

In the small quaint town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a charming art center (art gallery, gift shop and classroom facility) known as Valley Art Center had a unique, artistic exterior mural done by three professional artists depicting a gallery wall.

Though the painted wall contained no words, only imagery, the city claimed that the mural was sending a ‘message’ which meant it was considered a ‘sign’ and ordered it removed because it was in violation of their zoning code. Signs in that town need to be 12 feet and smaller and the mural was clearly larger.

Many attempts were made to try to save the mural — local artists and art center officials attended town meetings, but to no avail.

The art center turned an unfortunate situation around. They agreed to replace the mural with one that satisfied the laws of village according to their code.

They are currently in the process of selecting a new design through a public Call To Entry process. And the city agreed to write mural guidelines into the sign code.

Soon the art center will have a new mural designed by an artist and for the public to enjoy for years to come.

See some of the related articles surrounding this story:

Valley Art Center and Chagrin Falls officials will commission new mural

Valley Art Center Mural Competition 
Call to Entry

Painting a Controversy: Artists Fight to Save Mural

Chagrin Falls’ VAC mural center of big controversy

Valley Art Center in Chagrin Falls fighting village’s order to remove wall mural


Squaw Rock by Henry Church Jr.

December 13, 2013

By Janet Dodrill

ink sketch by Janet Dodrill of Squaw Rock by Henry Church Jr 1885

Squaw Rock by Henry Church Jr. 1885, ink sketch by Janet Dodrill.

On a walk down a path at the South Chagrin Reservation known as Squaw Rock sits a mammoth-sized rock on the bank of the Chagrin River that was carved by an artist in1885. That artist was self-taught Henry Church Jr. (1836-1908), American primitive painter and sculptor, but blacksmith by profession, from Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Squaw Rock’s formal name is ‘The Rape of the Indian Tribes by the White Man’ and it stands 30 feet high. The carving includes a woman (squaw) surrounded by a snake, a baby (papoose), skeleton, eagle, shield, flag, hatchet, arrows, and dog.

I read somewhere once that Henry used to secretly travel to the carving site by night, working by lantern, in hopes that the rock would be ‘discovered’ one day and believed to be carved by Indians, but I cannot locate the posting again to support this.

In recent years it has been vandalized and damaged. The squaw’s face and breasts have been defaced, and nature has taken its course and the stone face has deteriorated. After Church died, WPA (Works Project Administration) built a base under the rock to protect it from the river. I remember going there as a child, and even though my father was an avid photographer then and I so in more recent years, we have no early photographs, or any for that matter, of the rock at all.

In 1999 I visited the rock and did this ink sketch, as a result of an organized ‘hike and sketch’ event by the parks, which I participated in with my later mother and father who also appreciated his work.

Church carved a lion with a lamb for his own funeral stone, which is currently on long-term loan at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and pre-recorded his own funeral sermon on a wax gramophone cylinder. Though most of his painting were destroyed by his daughter after his death, he is also known for his painting The Monkey Picture (28″ x 44″, oil on paper, mounted on oil cloth, 1895-1900) which is on permanent collection at Abbey Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center.


The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History


Antiques & Fine Art Magazine (The Monkey Picture)

The Sculpture Center, Outdoor Ohio Sculpture Inventory

Photos of Squaw Rock:

The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, The Famous Squaw Rock

South Chagrin Reservation, Cleveland Metroparks