GRANT CITY — The Gipper is coming to Staten Island.
Artist Scott LoBaido installed a 13-by-18-foot mural of former President Ronald Reagan in front of a building on a busy Staten Island street this week. The print, which depicts the 40th president wearing a white T-shirt that reads "Dear God, Let Me Go Back For Just A Day," was hung up on the side of a building at Hylan Boulevard and Bedford Avenue.
The giant Reagan will remain on Staten Island for a week, then LoBaido plans to hang up the mural in various spots around the city. The next spot for Reagan will be Queens Boulevard, LoBaido said.
LoBaido said he was inspired to create the piece because he hopes, with recent turmoil between America and Russia, that some of Reagan's ideas in handling the Cold War would be revitalized today.
"[Vladimir] Putin and Kim Jong-un would be wearing diapers if Reagan were here for just a day," LoBaido said. "Reagan, like all presidents, had some baggage, but he ended the Cold War without firing a single shot, and we were feared and respected."
The artist made the digital collage using one of his flag paintings and added cut-and-paste images of the former president on top. He then printed out the large banner, which costs him $400, and painted a "The Gipper" tattoo to the arm, because of a role played by Reagan during his acting career.
LoBaido got permission from the owner and said it took 2 hours to rig it to the under-construction building.
"This is something," said Daniel Hall, the real estate agent for the building. "I like it. Things are just kind of crazy right now and American needs to get a hold on itself."
Hall said that, while he wasn't a very political person, the painting sparked a sense of pride in America.
"You got to get back as a county and stand united," Hall said.
LoBaido said Reagan first sparked his patriotism and love of America and he hopes people who pass by the piece will feel some of the same love for the county that he does.
"Reagan created the patriotic beast in me over 20 years ago," he said. "I want the viewer to remember the days when we were all proud and felt strong and free with little fear, knowing that our leader was there to lead."