4 murals expected in 2008|[01/04/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 4, 2008

Four murals will be added this year to the 22 at Vicksburg’s City Front.

Set for completion are panels commemorating the Vicksburg Theatre Guild’s record-setting production of “Gold in the Hills,” the town’s founder, Newit Vick and Methodism, 50 years of the Miss Mississippi Pageant in the city and a transitional mural linking a contemporary design with the history-themed panels of muralist Robert Dafford.

The Vick-centered mural should be finished late this month, said Nellie Caldwell, chairman of the Vicksburg Riverfront Mural Committee and the driving force behind the overall project. Vick, a Methodist minister, laid out lots in the town then known as Walnut Hills. It was incorporated as Vicksburg by the Legislature in 1825. Members of the Methodist church community are sponsoring the mural, which will also recall the role of Methodists in creating and nurturing the city.

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Prep work for a panel centered on the longest-running melodrama on a stage anywhere has been completed. Work on the mural might start next week. Friends and family of the “Gold in the Hills” production are sponsoring the mural honoring the play, which will start its 73rd season March 28.

Work on the Miss Mississippi mural, sponsored by the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, will start next. The 2007 pageant was the 50th in Vicksburg. Four Miss Americas and numerous top national finalists have won their state crowns in Vicksburg.

The next project will be a mural to tie Dafford’s designs to the abstract style of the first mural, created by local artist Martha Ferris in 2001.

“The transitional mural will tie my colorful stylistic approach to his more realistic one,” Ferris said. “The tentative idea is to add smoke stacks immediately bordering both sides of my mural. We also thought of adding more musicians because of the Willie Dixon mural to the right, and Nellie wanted to see a steamboat to relate to Dafford’s early mural to the left of the opening.”

Dafford said prep work to the transitional mural, which he called Steamboat and Musicians, will start this week. But, Dafford said, he and Ferris will meet to discuss the design before starting the work.

“I am very pleased with the positive feedback from the community about the murals,” Ferris said. “I’m looking forward to seeing Dafford’s work completed.”

Five other murals are partially funded, but are in need of more sponsors to finish raising the $16,500 it takes to get reviewed and approved. The 1927 flood, Planter’s Hall, Rosa A. Temple School, Koestler’s Bakery, and the Gov. Kirk Fordice murals are all working on more sponsors. The Run Thru History and Run Across the Bridge murals are waiting on sponsorship.

Caldwell stressed the importance of sponsors and added that the Vicksburg community has provided Dafford and his team a place to stay and eat.

“It’s exciting to see the interest of the Vicksburg people and wanting to get certain pictures on the wall before it’s over because there are only 10 spaces left,” Caldwell said. “People are getting so excited and are wanting to get certain murals in those spaces.”

Each mural is about 12-by-20 feet and has a protective coating. Dafford said that the process to complete a mural consists of water blasting the wall and letting it sit for 30 days, then applying the top coat and finally painting the mural.

The whole project is to be completed in 2010. “If he could finish three murals per season, then it might happen,” Caldwell said. “We are hoping to finish it in two years. That would be nice. We are proud of what we have down there and want it to end well for the Vicksburg people.”

The historic series began as an idea after Dafford’s work was seen in Paducah, Ky. Here, the vast majority of murals were privately funded and the wall has become a major attraction.

Nearby is the Downtown Art Park, soon to be joined by a Junior Auxiliary created playground, a transportation museum and an interpretive center explaining Corps of Engineers flood control work and displaying the MV Mississippi, now in position on solid ground and undergoing renovation.