Watching over Vallonia


For the Tribune


Corey Baughman wanted a realistic-looking bison.

He also wanted an image of Fort Vallonia painted on one side. Then when it was decided to display the bison in a more prominent location, the other side needed some type of image.

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The first person he thought of to paint the bison was fellow Vallonia native Max Koop.

Spending about 25 hours over a month’s period, Koop finished painting the 5-foot-tall, 6-foot-wide fiberglass bison.

It now sits along Main Street in the heart of Jackson County’s oldest community for people to see.

It was completed in time for the 48th annual Fort Vallonia Days this past weekend, where hundreds of people saw it and took pictures of it.

“I think it looks awesome. It fits perfect down here,” Koop said. “I have had compliments all day on it. I’ve been posting pictures on Facebook off and on as I did it, too. They said it looked really awesome, they thought it fit well in the community, and said I had done a great job and it looked real.”

The bison is one of six the county received as part of the Bison-tennial Public Art Project. Jackson County United Way partnered with the Indiana Bicentennial Commission and Indiana Association of United Ways in this celebration of the state’s bicentennial.

Artists were chosen in each of Indiana’s 92 counties to paint the bison, and sponsors were sought.

All year long, they have made their way to community festivals, the county fair and bicentennial events.

The bison eventually will find permanent homes throughout the county.

Koop said the one he painted will stay on the concrete pad in front of the Fort Vallonia Museum.

“If it gets really, really cold this winter, we may want to take it in,” he said. “It’s got four coats of acrylic (paint) over top of it. It should be fine, but if it gets as cold as what they are saying and as much snow as they say we are supposed to get, we may want to store it in the building.”

Baughman said the community got a hold of the bison in the summer after the Fort Vallonia Days Association decided to purchase it for $2,500.

“We thought maybe to add some more tourism through the summer with that being out there,” he said of why the board chose to buy the bison. “We knew several places in the area were getting them, so we thought this would be great (for the community).”

During a board meeting, Koop’s name came up when they were trying to figure out who would paint it.

When he was first asked, though, he was unsure if he could fit it into his schedule.

“I was real honored that they called me and asked me,” Koop said. “I first told Corey, ‘No, I don’t have time,’ and he’s like, ‘I really want you to do this. I’ve seen your work.’”

Koop then decided he could make it work. He received the bison in July and was asked to have it done in a couple of months.

After wiping off the bison, Koop added a primer coat and then painted the base color. Once that dried, he started blending colors. To protect the 100 percent acrylic brown paint, he added a clear coat.

“It was a different type of paint than I’ve ever worked with, but once I got used to the fundamentals of it, it was no big deal,” he said.

At first, only one image — Fort Vallonia — was going to be painted on the bison because it was going to be placed behind the Fort Vallonia Museum. But when the board decided to place the bison in front of the museum, Baughman asked Koop to come up with an image for the other side.

Koop chose tepees because of the Native Americans who once inhabited the area. Vallonia became a French settlement in the late 18th century, and a fort was built around 1810 when hostilities between Native Americans and settlers occurred.

Koop said it took him about two hours to paint the fort.

“I would come over and look (at the fort), and then I’d come go back and paint some more,” he said.

Two weeks later, he painted the tepees, using images he found online as a guide. That also took about two hours to paint.

After one more clear coat, Koop was done with the project.

Baughman said he was happy with the finished product.

“It’s amazing. It’s wonderful,” he said. “I’m amazed at how many have just stopped and taken pictures, too, already (during Fort Vallonia Days). It brings the community together.”

Koop now will turn his attention to painting one of the tabletop bison, which most likely will wind up on display inside the museum.

“Corey dropped it off to me and said, ‘Make that your winter project,’” Koop said.

Then next spring, he plans on repainting a mural that’s on the side of a garage near the fort. Several years ago, he spent a summer painting the mural, which features images related to Vallonia’s history.

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Where are the six Jackson County Bison-tennial bison?

The Fort Vallonia Days Association purchased one to place in front of the Fort Vallonia Museum. The realistic-looking bison with images of Fort Vallonia and tepees was painted by Max Koop.

“Bloomer,” painted by Darnell Dukes, is at Cafe Batar east of Seymour until later this year. The bison features a collage of wildflowers native to Indiana. Its permanent home will be at the Jackson County Visitor Center in Seymour. Sponsors are Vision Financial, Cafe Batar, Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce and Seymour Noon Lions Club.

A pink bison was painted by children at Kids Fest in April under the direction of Kay Fox. Then Nick Walden painted ribbons representing various types of cancer and the HOPE Medora Goes Pink logo. It was on display during HOPE Medora Goes Pink on Oct. 8 and will be on display again during the Medora Christmas Festival in December before being permanently placed in Medora. Sponsors are State Bank of Medora, Rumpke and Owen-Carr Township Community Fund.

Images of the Medora Covered Bridge, a round barn, the Jackson-Washington State Forest fire tower, the Jackson County Courthouse and the Indiana state seal are on a bison painted by Brownstown Elementary School art teacher Robb Reynolds. It will be placed on the courthouse lawn. Its sponsor is the Jackson County Visitor Center.

A brown bison was sponsored by the Jackson County History Center and will be placed on its campus in Brownstown. Jerry Brown painted the bison and applied graphics, including the bicentennial puzzle map drawn by Nick Walden and the history center logo.

Kay Fox is in the process of painting a transportation-themed bison, including the Reno brothers train robbery, trains, Freeman Field and airplanes. It’s sponsored by Chateau de Pique Winery in Seymour and will be placed there.


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