Mural project draws interest

A total of 10 professional artists have submitted résumés so far to paint a mural on the north wall of the Seymour Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Seymour.

Artists have until April 9 to submit their information to be considered for the project.

Most of the applicants are from Indiana and the surrounding region, including Ohio and Kentucky, but there is one from Missouri and one from as far away as Spain, said chamber President Dan Robison.


“It’s great that we’re getting regional and even global attention with this,” he said.

Three to five artists will be chosen as top picks by a task force made up of Seymour leaders and residents to guide the mural to completion.

Artists selected will present a design concept, and sometime in July, the task force will award the project.

Members of the task force are Stephanie Flinn, Arann Banks, Bri Roll, Melody Hageman, Jane Hays, Eric DiBlasi Jr., Kelly Trask, David Riley, Dee Smith, Sasha Norman, Laurie Martin and art students from Seymour High School.

Local businesses and organizations also are getting involved and supporting the project. Seymour Decorating Center is donating all of the paint needed for the mural, and Smitty’s Painting will apply a seal coat and base coat of paint onto the bricks in preparation for the mural

Also, the Indiana Arts Commission is lending a hand with the process of commissioning an artist, and the Jackson County Visitor Center has provided a grant for the project.

“We really want this to be a community project,” Robison said.

The goal is to have the mural completed by the end of September.

“When we do have the project done, we will have a big celebration down here unveiling the mural, so we’re excited about that,” he said.

Robison said he noticed there were a lot of murals in Florida where he lived for 18 years. When he moved back to Seymour a year ago, he was excited to see the art form becoming more popular here.

The Farmers Club building is a perfect location for a mural because it will serve as a backdrop to the recently developed Burkhart Plaza, a community gathering space with bistro tables and chairs, interactive musical instruments, unique landscaping features and porch-style swings.

One concern Robison and task force members originally had was the amount of windows artists will have to work around to complete the mural.

But the artists have voiced their confidence the windows will not be an issue, Robison said.

“That’s why they are artists,” he said.

There are plenty of examples of wall murals online where artists have incorporated windows or worked around them, he added.

On Thursday evening, a small group of people interested in the project gathered outside at Burkhart Plaza to learn more and provide ideas of what they would and wouldn’t like to see in the design of the mural. More meetings will be held in the future, Robison said.

“When you look at this space, what are some of the things you see?” Robison asked. “What’s your vision for this project? What themes would you like to see presented in this project?”

One idea shared is to highlight the history of the building, which was built in 1913 by M.S. Blish in honor of Seymour’s founder, Meedy Shields. It was dedicated a year later as the first Farmers Club in the United States.

Blish also owned Blish Milling Co., remnants of which remain in Seymour, including the grain silos that still tower over the city and the flywheel that used to generate power for the mill that’s now located in Crossroads Community Park.

“Farmers would come into town, bring their grain to go to the mill,” Robison said. “Back in 1913, when you came to town, it wasn’t like it is now where we just run to town and then run home.”

People would take care of all of their needs in one trip, from shopping at the five and dime to picking up groceries to visiting the pharmacy, because it might be a few weeks before they came back to town, Robison said.

Blish saw a need for a place for farmers and their families to relax and socialize while visiting Seymour for the day, so he came up with the idea for the Farmers Club.

He gathered support from local bankers and got them onboard. With their investment, the club was built.

On Oct. 4, 1914, Blish organized a celebration and street fair to signal the opening of the Farmers Club. The U.S. director of agriculture even visited from Washington, D.C.

As society changed and the need for a Farmers Club went away, the building served other purposes, including offices for the American Red Cross.

In 1985, the Seymour Chamber of Commerce took possession of the building for just $1 through a quitclaim deed.

Robison, who was born and raised in Seymour, said he feels it’s a privilege to work in the Farmers Club building.

“It’s a beautiful building. It’s historic,” he said. “I love the building and the history behind it.”

Drew Davis of Seymour said he would like to see the image of the flywheel, which at one time was displayed next to the chamber building, incorporated in the design of the mural or possibly portraits of people important to the city, including Shields and Blish.

Julia Aker said at one time, Seymour’s first fire station, which also served as city hall, stood next to the Farmers Club.

“We kind of thought about that, too, so maybe showing the history of the surrounding property,” Robison said.

Aker also suggested paying tribute to late Seymour Mayor John Burkhart for whom Burkhart Plaza is named and his dedication to community service.

“Maybe something showing the history of all the service organizations in the community,” she said. “I don’t think it should be anything modern because it’s such an old building. It needs to have something to do with the community’s history.”

One idea Robison said has been suggested is the Reno Brothers, who committed the first peacetime train robbery in the United States. The brothers were from the Rockford area and later were hanged for their crimes by vigilantes just outside of Seymour.

When coming up with ideas, Robison said it’s just as important to ask people what they don’t want to see painted on the building.

Davis said he would rather not see any images of trains.

“There’s enough of them around town already,” he said.

The same goes for the theme of music, Robison added.

“We realized it’s kind of everywhere,” he said.

With existing murals being straightforward images, Robison said it might be better to do an abstract mural this time around.

“I want someone to be able to come, enjoy the park, look at the mural, enjoy it, take it all in and then two months later come back and see something different or experience something different than they did the first time,” he said.

Aker agreed an abstract mural may work better in the space because it is so broken up by the windows.

There were even suggestions of making the mural less static and not so permanent by using projectors to display changing images.

Laurie Martin, who teaches art classes at Seymour High School, said she wants students to stay in Seymour and think it’s a cool place.

“It’s great to look at the history and value the history but then to also bring a more modern edge to it so that it makes it cool,” she said. “Make it fun so people will want to gather here to see it and embrace our history.”

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For information and to participate in a short online survey about the mural, email [email protected].