Downtown Pittsburg’s newest mural showcases the talent of a dozen area artists working together on their first large-scale project.
In the process, each learned how to do every step involved in creating a large-scale, grant-funded work, and the result is that the corner of Third and Broadway was brightened up with a love story representing Southeast Kansas.
“They all worked really diligently to get it done,” said James Oliver Jr., the Pittsburg State University art instructor whose mural class created the work.
Oliver said the course was a new offering at PSU, and early on he had approached Downtown District Coordinator Jeff Wilbert about securing a location for a student-produced mural.
“I began looking for a downtown location and the Downtown District committee suggested the location at Third and Broadway, on the shared wall of Dr. Keith Mallatt, Optomotrist and Beck & Hill Meat Market, owned by Brian Laswell,” Wilbert said. “They were both very receptive to the mural location and were very good to work with.”
Oliver also wrote a grant to the SEK Art Fest, and was awarded $1,700 to cover materials for the project.
When students came back for the fall semester, they began meeting with the Downtown Committee and submitted design proposals for the mural.
“Each student designed a mural to scale for the space we were given,” Oliver said, adding that the business owners made the final selections, opting to go big with a design by Luis Calderon.
“I was nervous,” Calderon said of the selection, adding that there was quite a bit of “wow” factor to seeing his work on such a large canvas.
While Calderon’s design was selected, the art was a team project in every way.
”They organized themselves the first day in terms of a rotation,” Oliver said, adding that the mural is the result of about 350 man hours. “Much of the work that was completed for the mural was completed outside of class.”
Oliver said the project became a job for the semester for some of the 12 students involved, and that learning every part of the process helped prepare each of them for potential future opportunities.
“That was part of what we’re trying to teach them in terms of professionalism,” Oliver said.
As the artist whose concept was selected, Calderon had some opportunity to be the final voice in group decisions, but Oliver said he was intentional about the group sharing the project in every way.
“It wasn’t a personal work of art,” Calderon said. “It had an intentional purpose We were all doing it together.”
Once the work, which was done on nine 8x4-foot panels, was complete, it was taken to Vietti’s for a varnish spray and then installed through the efforts of Pittsburg Parks and Recreation and John Kutz and his employees.
The mural officially was unveiled in late October, but weather that night dampened the turnout. Now, however, it can be spotted by any driver northbound on Broadway at the south part of downtown.
Calderon said knowing the mural is there has changed his driving habits.
“Now we don’t take the bypass,” he said. “We go through Broadway.”
Wilbert said the opportunity was a great experience for all involved.
“Jamie and his students were a pleasure to work with,” Wilbert said, thanking the SEK Art Fest committee and building owners for the space for the mural. “It was truly a volunteer effort between the students, the city and the community.”