The latest piece of artwork to adorn a wall in downtown Seymour captures some of the history of the city, past and present businesses that have made a lasting impact over the years and various events and landmarks.
To produce the 25-by-40-foot mural being painted on the side of Artistic Impressions at 127 W. Second St., Seymour Main Street turned to an artist from Chicago, Illinois.
“We felt it was an eye-opening experience to have an artist from a different city identify what he saw as Seymour’s story,” said Bri Roll, executive director of Seymour Main Street, which commissioned the work.
Michael Ferrarell of Chicago was selected after a Main Street design committee sent out a request for proposals earlier this year.
“Main Street was pleased to have artists nationwide invited to submit their mural vision for the brick wall,” Roll said.
The winning artwork was selected through a community survey, and a panel of community volunteers further narrowed the elements included in Ferrarell’s original design through a process that involved several revisions.
“We shared the survey feedback with Michael so he could customize his design to include ideas from our community,” Roll said.
The selection process ensured a very objective approach to selecting an artist and leveraging available funds, which is about $30,000, to capture the highest value to the organization, Roll said.
The final design features images representing landmarks, such as the Majestic Theatre, Rok-Sey roller skating rink, Stardust Theatre, Vondee Theatre, a Tuskegee Airman statue, a Seymour Owls logo and the torch that appeared on the front page of The Tribune for decades.
The Bee Hive, Paris Style, Union Hardware and Gold Mine also are featured on the mural along with JACSY, the mascot for the Jackson County United Fund, now known as Jackson County United Way, a race car, a covered bridge and a crown recognizing Jackson County’s own Miss America, Katie Stam.
Ferrarell, assisted by Nick Capozzoli, also of Chicago, started work on the mural this past week and expect to be finished Tuesday.
While taking a break from painting Thursday afternoon, Ferrarell said he spent a week or so researching the city and community before submitting his design.
He said his research, however, went much deeper than a simple Wikipedia or Google search, allowing to him track down old icons, pieces of architecture, signs and other items.
“Things that have been gone but meant a lot to the people in town,” he said. “I feel like they’re just fun and cool to look at. This is a good way to preserve and recreate them and tie them into a larger composition.”
His research drew material from old newspaper articles, Flickr, an image hosting service, ads in the back of old high school yearbooks and other sources.
In the case of Union Hardware, which was located a block away from the mural, Ferrarell said he went so far as to using the same font that was on an original sign from the store that closed in May 2018 on the mural.
“The particular text came from an old aluminum sign that was somewhere in the hardware store 30 or 40 years ago,” he said. “I found a guy on Flickr who had a few images of the sign. I was thinking that was significant.”
Ferrarell said his vision of the mural is to have everybody in the community, who will be seeing it the most, connect with at least one thing on it.
“I feel like I can probably guarantee that everybody will,” he said. “I feel that makes it important.”
Roll said public art is extremely important to downtown development and growth.
“Murals can transform the warmth and vibrancy of a downtown, making it a welcoming and energizing experience and destination for both residents and tourists,” she said. “I am very happy with the final design. Michael was wonderful to collaborate with, and I feel that we captured as many interesting elements as possible.”
While he has been painting for quite some time, the Seymour mural is just the third one he has painted that focuses on aspect of a town’s history and nostalgia.
Ferrarell said while it’s something new for him, he really likes collages, nostalgia and letters and characters.
“Obviously, I like things in small towns and preserving things that have passed away,” he said. “As time moves forward, the mom and pop shops are dying out, and those are just like the coolest ones. That’s what people remember the most. I just wanted to put a little spin on that and have it be preserved and remembered. People can still have those memories of places even though they’re gone.”
His most recent project involved a mural in Oskaloosa, Iowa, which focused on that city’s musical heritage.
The Seymour mural, which is located on the west side of Artistic Impressions facing Chestnut Street, is Seymour Main Street’s second downtown mural. The first is located on the north facing side of the Edward Jones Adam Jackson office building at 201 S. Chestnut St.
There also is a mural located on the back of the Community Agency Building, and there’s the John Mellencamp mural on the east side of the This Old Guitar building on West Second Street.