Jerry Springer mural to adorn Tender Mercies’ OTR building

Most people remember the late Jerry Springer for his colorful talk show that dominated airwaves for the better part of three decades. Cincinnatians of a certain age will likely recall his gonzo-like antics at City Hall – first as a member of the City Council and later as mayor – or his time as a new anchor at WLWT-TV.

But those weren’t the only sides of Gerald Norman Springer for his decades of behind-the-scenes work supporting nonprofits such as Tender Mercies and other community organizations serving those in need.

Sadly, Springer passed away on April 27, 2023, from pancreatic cancer. He was 79.

Ahead of the one-year anniversary of his death, ArtWorks announced a plan to further cement Springer’s legacy on the Greater Cincinnati region by adorning his face on Tender Mercies’ headquarters in Over-the-Rhine. Work is set to begin this summer.

“We believe Jerry would not want simply a mural to pay homage to him, but instead he would want a mural to help him, even in death, to continue the work that was in his spirit, meaning he would want to try to help others through the mural, in this case, Tender Mercies,” said Jene Galvin, a longtime friend of Springer. 

Honoring a lifetime of giving back

It was Galvin and Cincinnati City Council Member Jeff Cramerding who came up with the idea for the mural. The duo approached ArtWorks last year to find a meaningful way to honor Springer’s legacy – not just as a local icon but as a philanthropist.

Galvin described the Tender Mercies location as a natural fit.

Over the course of his life, Springer sought out ways to become involved in various philanthropic endeavors, namely advocating for social justice causes and supporting charitable organizations. But one of Springer’s favorite local charities was Tender Mercies, to which he was a generous supporter for 25 years.

The “Jerry Springer” mural will become the latest mural on 12th Street.

Founded in 1985, the Cincinnati-based nonprofit provides housing and support services for homeless adults with histories of severe mental illness. It serves more than 200 people every year.

After his first visit to Tender Mercies, Springer went undercover as a homeless person to gain more perspective to understand those served by the organization, Galvin recalled.

Once complete, the mural’s plaque will include a QR code that links to the Tender Mercies website so visitors can easily donate. Springer’s friends and family including Galvin, Louis Beck of Union and Guardian Savings Banks and Marcia Spaeth of Union Savings Bank, are providing support for the mural.

“It all fits the theme of, ‘take care of yourself and each other,’” Galvin said of the mural, referencing the closing motto her longtime friend uttered at the end of every episode of the “Jerry Springer” show.

Adding a colorful character to a growing outdoor gallery

Over the past 28 years, ArtWorks has collaborated with numerous government agencies, companies and nonprofits to create a citywide gallery. To date, the collection includes more than 14,000 public and private art projects, including more than 300 permanent outdoor murals.

The Springer-inspired mural will become the newest piece in that collection when work wraps up this summer.

Fittingly, project partners decided the mural will take up a prominent position outside Tender Mercies offices at 27 W. 12th St.

While they know the design will feature his likeness in some way, ArtWorks isn’t yet sure about the design. The nonprofit is looking for a designer. A call for artists is open and running through April 9. Details are available on the ArtWorks website.

ArtWorks apprentices work on a Sycamore Street mural by MOMO.

Once they settle on a design, ArtWorks will hire a team of youth apprentices, aged 18–21, to work alongside teaching artists over the course of several weeks to bring that vision to life.

A completion date and details about a formal unveiling of the mural will be made available closer to the project’s completion.

“Jerry’s show often featured ordinary people with extraordinary stories, making it truly remarkable,” said Jill Dunne, ArtWorks’ senior director of marketing and communications. “Now, we’re focused on finding the perfect designer who can embody Jerry’s philosophy in this mural.”

Tender Mercies

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