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Published in the Columbia Daily Tribune 1 October 2006

The Muddy Mural

Three colors of housepaint.  Thatís all it takes to paint a mural.

Well, that, and the knowledge of how to create a full palette of colors from the three primaries.  Oh, and being able to paint.  Yeah, that's handy.  Having a good work surface in a decent location is important.  So is subject matter.  And the time to do so.  But most important of all is the right attitude.

Jane Mudd, professor of fine art at William Woods University in Fulton, has everything it takes.  Along with a little help from students, friends, and the community.  And with all of these ingredients she is creating a 100 foot wide mural in Fulton on the back of the Movie Gallery, located at the intersection of Bluff Street and St. Louis Avenue.  The back of the building has a wonderful southern exposure and a large, empty lot bordered by two streets, so lots of people can see the mural as it is being painted.

Materials (paint and prep materials) are being provided by Brady's Glass in Fulton.  The scaffolding being used (the mural is 15 feet tall) is supplied by Fulton's Heath Masonry.  Mike Lingenfelter, the owner of the building, was the one to initiate the project.  He contacted William Woods and asked if anyone would be interested in using his building as a canvas.  When Mudd heard about it, she saw it as an opportunity to put her artistic talents to work in a new way, and to involve the community.  To date a couple dozen people have helped with the actual painting, though many more have come by the site since she started about a month ago to provide encouragement and moral support.  Mudd hopes to have the project completed in another month or so.

Mudd, who has a MFA from MU, is a well established artist in mid-Missouri.  She was one of the first artists to show at my gallery when we opened, and continued to be a strong seller the whole time we were in business.  Her landscapes in particular were very popular, but she is also a very talented portraitist.  Both of those skill-sets are used in the mural, of course.

Before she embarked on planning out her mural, she and her mentee Meagan Cooper did a survey of other historical murals around the state, including the Thomas Hart Benton masterpieces at the State Capitol.  Opting to go with a more contemporary flavor, the mural Mudd is creating (with help) includes not only scenes from Callaway County's history, but also references to recent events and new buildings.  She's also not trying to be quite as serious as Benton was in his work, and the resulting mural has a relaxed and playful style.  "This is the back of a video place, after all," said Mudd.  "And the paint, while good quality, is commercial paint, exposed to the elements.  I'll probably get to watch this thing slowly fade over the next ten or twenty years."

Such a realistic attitude towards her work is characteristic of Mudd, and is quite refreshing in an era when so many artists working on public projects costing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars can be quite temperamental.  But this down-to-earth attitude doesn't mean that she is being casual about doing good art with this mural.  She's using color and perspective brilliantly, giving a depth to the piece which keeps the eye moving from one point to another, one depicted scene to another.  What the work may lack in detail (which would take much more time) it makes up for in overall effect.  Fulton is indeed very lucky to have such a work of public art.  And if you get over there to see it being made (perhaps to lend a hand yourself) in the next few weeks, you'll be in for a rare treat.

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