Murals make fair view better

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February 19, 2010 - 12:00 AM

MORAN — After crews put the finishing touches on the new community building at Riverside Park, Becky Robb couldn’t help but notice the structure’s nearness to the Baby Barnyard. The barnyard, a popular attraction at the Allen County Fair, sits just a scant few feet to the north of the building.
“I’m not used to looking out from the Baby Barnyard and seeing just a blank wall,” said Robb, a member of the Allen County Fair Board and Baby Barnyard superintendent. So Robb approached Bill Wilson, art instructor at Marmaton Valley USD 256, about enhancing the view. Together, they devised a 32-foot-wide panoramic mural of scenes associated with the fair, such as animals, children and summertime activities.
Wilson’s mural is being constructed as a series of eight paintings, each on a 4-by-8 wood panel.
He has completed the first, a cow peaking around the trunk of a tree, and he’s nearly finished the second, featuring a horse and small dog. Wilson said he must complete one before starting the next to ensure the colors match perfectly.
“That’s the hardest part; getting the exact shade,” he said.

THE PROJECT has become an ideal teaching opportunity for Wilson.
The panels are being kept in his art room at Marmaton Valley, so that he can work on them in evenings and weekends and students can monitor his progress.
“The younger students especially like to come in each day and see what’s different,” he said.
For older students, Wilson goes into detail on each piece, such as how he starts with general shapes and saves precise details for last.
“A lot of young artists do the opposite,” he said. “They’ll start with something specific, which could be trouble if you have to change something later on.”

PAINTING murals is old hat for Wilson, whose works enliven venues from a church in Chicago to Humboldt’s Pinecrest Nursing Home. This creation was a bit different, however, in that each of the eight panels had to be distinct enough to be displayed on its own, he said. That’s because Wilson’s mural will be disassembled at the conclusion of the fair each year, to protect it from weather damage. Then, the panels be placed in storage or displayed at various sponsor businesses.
Wilson will identify the sponsors of each panel in some capacity, such as a well-placed company logo. Or, if an implement dealer desired, Wilson could feature an antique tractor, Robb said. Two panels have been sponsored so far. General Repair has the first; Craig Abbot the second.
Sponsorship for each panel costs $300, enough to cover materials and labor. “We’re not making a profit,” Robb said. To sponsor one, call 228-2155.
Robb noted that if demand is there, the mural can be expanded to other walls of the community building — which doubles as offices for the Fair Board during each Allen County Fair. There is enough space for 17 panels, she said.
Wilson’s goal is to have the mural completed before the fair.
Robb said the murals likely will be displayed through September, before being removed to storage.
“It’s going to be quite a project,” she said. “We want it to last.”
And even though he’s the creator of the project, Wilson said he was as anxious as anybody to see how the panorama turns out.

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