City dedicates community green space


Collaboration resulted in a John Mellencamp mural adorning a wall in downtown Seymour and a community green space being created in front it.

Larry McDonald, owner of This Old Guitar Music Store who used to play in a band with Mellencamp when they were younger, had wanted a Mellencamp mural on the side of the building for six years but struggled to get the idea off of the ground.

The project received the city’s support, but in January 2017, a fire in a building next to the music store caused significant damage downtown and put the mural on hold.

In 2019, though, Indianapolis artist Pamela Bliss completed the mural, which features a 35-foot image of Mellencamp leaning on a guitar, a smaller image of him wearing a Seymour FFA jacket, “I was born in a small town” lyrics from his famous “Small Town” song and a sign noting his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.

At the end of that year, Mellencamp sent a letter to then-Mayor Craig Luedeman that said the family wanted to commit $50,000 to a plaza project at the northwest corner of Second Street and Indianapolis Avenue.

Mellencamp’s father, Richard, assisted in the creative design of the project, and city departments came together to take out six parking spaces in front of the mural and create a fenced-in grassy space with tables and seating.

Seymour Main Street partnered with the city on the project, the Duke Energy Foundation provided a lighting grant and Myers Sod Farm donated sod.

“Previously, we would have been standing in a parking lot,” Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson said during Tuesday’s dedication. “Now, we’ve got a nice, beautiful green space in front of our awesome mural.”

Chad Keithley, the city’s parks operations director, praised Seymour Main Street, the city team and the Mellencamp family.

“Thank you, Mellencamp family, for making a great addition to downtown Seymour,” he said.

Bri Roll, executive director of Seymour Main Street, said she was thrilled to have Bliss present at Tuesday’s dedication. Bliss also painted murals of Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller, Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut and Holocaust survivor Eva Kor in Indianapolis, a mural in honor of the rich jazz history in Richmond and a mural of Abraham Lincoln in Cambridge City.

“Thank you again, Pamela, for creating the mural, which is a beautiful piece of art, and it has already proven to be a tremendous asset to our community and our downtown,” Roll said.

Bliss said she’s impressed by the transformation of the area in front of the mural.

“Oh my gosh, this just polished it up, makes it look so much more formal and like it was meant to be here,” she said. “I’m very happy that they did this.”

She said McDonald was determined to make the mural happen.

“I don’t think Seymour really understood what kind of ambassador they had in him,” Bliss said. “So many people when I was painting the mural, even when I wasn’t done, were coming into the store and he was patient and answered everybody’s questions, just showed everybody Seymour and Mellencamp stuff.”

McDonald died Feb 4 at the age of 68. Along the fence near the entrance to This Old Guitar, a memorial recently was added with a plaque reading “In honor of Larry McDonald, Seymour’s music historian.”

His wife, Sandy McDonald, and several members of the family were present for Tuesday’s dedication.

“It’s wonderful,” Sandy said of the community green space. “I’ve already enjoyed it a couple of times, came here for lunch. It’s great. We’ve had people from all over the world that came and did a tour before this, so they are going to be really happy to see it done.

She appreciates the work of those involved in the project to bring Larry’s vision to fruition.

“He would be thrilled, so proud, so happy,” Sandy said. “He would be very proud of the people that came and supported him and supported it. He loved taking people and telling them about John. He really, really liked John a lot.”

Speaking on behalf of the McDonald family, daughter Kristin Campbell said Seymour was so important to her dad.

“To leave this legacy behind for future generations to enjoy something downtown, that was really important to him, so to see the completion of it, he would have been proud,” she said. “He was most proud of that, to leave something for many generations.”

Roll said the project wouldn’t have been made possible without the support of McDonald and Bill Bevers, who owns the building that houses This Old Guitar.

“(Larry) was an energetic champion of the green space project as well as the mural project,” she said. “He loved this town, and he will warmly be remembered as Seymour’s music historian.”

The addition of the public green space offers the community a beautiful location to enjoy lunch and spend time with family and friends, Roll said.

“It’s also a wonderful way to welcome tourists who are traveling to Seymour from across the world to enjoy the mural of John Mellencamp,” she said. “We’ve already seen this space being used. We can already see that it’s adding value to our community and our downtown.”

She said Seymour Main Street is appreciative of the partnership with the city and the Mellencamp family in accomplishing the enjoyable multiuse green space.

“We are looking forward to future collaborations and continuing to locate opportunities to bring improvements to our small town,” Roll said.

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