A baseball star will be in town the night before the Hens’ opening day — but his work won’t be on the Fifth Third Field diamond.
Renowned sports artist James Fiorentino is scheduled to attend a preview event 7 to 10 p.m. April 2 for his show, which runs through April 29 at Toledo’s MMK Gallery, 20 N. St. Clair St., across from the ballpark.
The New Jersey native, who does all his work in watercolor, said he prepared six Detroit Tigers-themed original paintings to be sold at the exhibit. An original piece that features Tigers manager and Perrysburg native Jim Leyland being carried on his players’ shoulders after the Tigers clinched the 2006 American League pennant will be auctioned at the preview event.
“It’s sort of rare in the sense that I did a bunch of paintings for the show,” said Fiorentino during a recent phone conversation. “I really don’t have many originals running around.”
Though Fiorentino is only 31, he has an extensive résumé and list of accomplishments. At 15, he became the youngest artist to have a painting displayed at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. His work has been featured in sports-card sets for Topps, Upper Deck and Kellogg’s, and he was Cal Ripken Jr.’s official artist when Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak in 1995.
MMK Gallery coordinator Cindy Millen said she discovered Fiorentino’s work while conducting Internet research on sports artists. When she contacted him about the possibility of featuring his art at a Toledo exhibit, Millen said, Fiorentino was well aware of Toledo’s rich baseball history and its Detroit ties.
Millen said Fiorentino’s show would be the first sports art exhibit MMK Gallery has hosted. She said she expects the display to draw art lovers and sports nuts alike.
“We are going to get a lot of baseball fans, I think,” Millen said.
MMK Gallery will donate its 30 percent commission from the sales of Fiorentino’s work to the Toledo Mud Hens charity.
Fiorentino said he uses photographs as references for his pieces, which typically take two to three days to complete.
In addition to the Tigers pieces, which include paintings of Magglio Ordonez, Justin Verlander, Curtis Granderson and Ivan Rodriguez, there will be about 13 other Fiorentino originals for sale at the MMK Gallery show. Other athletes featured in some of the paintings expected to be sold include Willie Mays, Yogi Berra, Stan Musial and Honus Wagner.
“I selected guys who I thought would be really good for the show,” Fiorentino said.
A limited-edition poster of Fiorentino’s Leyland painting will be available for purchase and autographs by the artist. Millen said the April 2 opening would be a family-friendly event open to the public.
MMK Gallery is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday and any time by appointment. For more information, visit the Web site www.jamesfiorentino.com.