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Moonwalker Neil Armstrong to be featured on mural in downtown Cincinnati

Design concept of ArtWorks' "Armstrong" mural by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra. The public art project, which depicts the first man to walk on the moon, will be painted in Cincinnati. (ArtWorks)
July 11, 2016

– A celebrated Brazilian street artist will paint a colorful mural of Neil Armstrong, honoring the late Apollo astronaut in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.

It could be described as one not-so-small-step for a public art project, one giant tribute for the first man to walk on the moon.

Eduardo Kobra, whose earlier kaleidoscope-themed works have covered buildings in New York City, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, as well as São Paulo, Brazil, was selected by ArtWorks in Cincinnati to create their largest mural to date. Kobra decided to honor Armstrong, who taught aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati and was living in the city at the time of his death in August 2012.

A Naval aviator and NASA research pilot prior to becoming an astronaut in 1962, Armstrong achieved the first docking between two spacecraft on Gemini 8 three years before he landed on the moon in July 1969.

Kobra's mural of the first moonwalker will cover the façade of the Fifth Third Bank headquarters' parking garage along Walnut Street. The artwork will measure 7,632 square feet (709 square meters) when complete.

Eduardo Kobra's mural is based on this April 1969 NASA photo of Neil Armstrong training for the Apollo 11 mission. (NASA)

"Celebrating Neil Armstrong is perfect in so many ways," Tim Elsbrock, the president of Fifth Third Bank (Cincinnati) said in a statement released by ArtWorks noting the bank's sponsorship of the mural. "Throughout his life, and notably as command pilot for Gemini 8 and spacecraft commander of Apollo 11, Armstrong embodied the core values our Fifth Third community champions."

"Kobra's compelling design conveys a universal aspiration to reach for the stars," Elsbrock said.

Kobra's concept for the mural embraces his signature style of depicting historical figures in a dynamic combination of photorealism, bold colors, and kaleidoscopic patterns.

Armstrong will be shown in his lunar spacesuit, holding the Hasselblad camera that he used while exploring the moon. His face, his helmet visor and the camera will be rendered in black and white.

Armstrong's suit will be painted in an exuberant patchwork of brightly colored triangles and stripes, and a spectrum of bright colors will form a rainbow effect emanating from the camera lens. The Earth, which Armstrong once described as "that tiny pea, pretty and blue," will be depicted in true-to-life colors.

Eduardo Kobra's mural of Neil Armstrong combines photorealistic elements with his signature kaleidoscope style. (ArtWorks)

"In depicting Armstrong so vividly at that amazing moment in time when innovation, creativity, and a pioneering spirit put men on the moon, Kobra has created a masterwork that is genuinely inspirational," said Tamara Harkavy, CEO and artistic director of ArtWorks, a non-profit that employs and trains local youth to create art.

The mural will be painted by Kobra, assisted by four teen apprentices selected by ArtWorks.

"Our goal was to create an iconic image that complements the site," said Harkavy, adding it was "destined to become a beloved landmark."

Kobra's tribute to Neil Armstrong will be one of 23 murals ArtWorks creates this summer, bringing the organization's total mural count to 125.

"Fifth Third Bank is excited [to] serve as the canvas for this very special ArtWorks project," Elsbrock said. "[It] engages our community and animates an already vibrant downtown space."

The painting, which ArtWorks will stream live as it happens on its website, will take place Aug. 8 through Aug. 20, with a public dedication scheduled for Aug. 21.

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