Canals, Lawton art focus of exhibition

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FROM STAFF REPORTS

Aurora -- An exhibition focusing on Ohio canals titled "The History of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canals" and paintings by deceased Aurora artist Florian K. Lawton and some of his students is running until Jan. 17, 2014 at the Aurora Historical Society museum on the lower level of Aurora Memorial Library.

The grand opening of the exhibition in early November featured a presentation about the history of Ohio's canals by Tim Donovan, executive director of the Ohio Canal Corridor. Ken Lawton, managing director of the Florian K. Lawton Foundation, introduced the exhibition and discussed his father's work in Ohio.

The exhibition showcases the development of Ohio's canal system in the second quarter of the 19th century. The canals had a great impact on Ohio, bringing many thousands of migrants to build them and providing a cheaper and more efficient way of moving goods to big city markets.

Construction of Ohio's canals got under way in the 1820s. Among the major canals were the Ohio & Erie, Miami & Erie and Sandy and Beaver. When railroads rose to prominence in the mid to late 1800s, the canals began a slow decline, and the great flood of 1913 brought an end to them.

In late 1996, the canal from Zoar to Cleveland was designated a National Heritage Corridor. The designation was brought about through the efforts of many communities, civic organizations, businesses and individuals working in partnership.

Florian Lawton began studying the watercolor medium while in Asia with the armed forces, and continued his art education at the Cleveland Institute of Art and the John Huntington Institute.

He taught at the Cooper School of Art, Cleveland Institute of Art and led private workshops throughout the United States and Europe. Most notable of his work are pieces which captured the Amish lifestyle. He died Jan. 11, 2011 at Aurora Manor at the age of 89.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the historical society conducted an open house Nov. 16, which included an art class by retired Aurora High School art teacher John Smolko and a children's program titled "Life on the Canal," which featured a story, canal songs, a craft and a snack.

The historical society and Florian K. Lawton Foundation are conducting a raffle during the exhibition, the winner of which will receive a proof by Lawton of the first documented brick home in Ohio -- the Stephen Frazee House along the Ohio & Erie Canal corridor in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It has an appraised value of $1,000.

The historical society's museum is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2 to 4 p.m. or by appointment. For more information, call 330-995-3336.

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