A small group gathered for a reception to celebrate updates to the mural’s design on Wednesday afternoon. Ardmore Beautification Council, Parks and Recreation, City Manager JD Spohn and sponsors of the mural project all came to admire the final form of the project, which ties together large-scale renderings of grade school students’ artwork with massive paintings of crayons and paint.
ABC Board Member Kay Watson, the main organizer on the project, said it’s rewarding to see everything finally coming together.
“When I very first came onto the Ardmore Beautification Council board, my project was to clean up this area, because there was graffiti,” Watson said. “So we worked on that for a long time.”
Watson, who lives in southeast Ardmore and passes under the bridge frequently, said working on the underpass was an ongoing project but the idea for a mural only came up about three years ago.
“Actually, [Muralist Bob Palmer] came up with the idea of getting student artwork and [ABC director Julie Maher] and [ABC President Regina Turrentine] went to the grade schools and asked them to participate.”
Palmer spoke at the reception as well, commenting on the mural’s unique nature.
“The students are really the stars here,” Palmer said. “I was given a stack of papers and I wasn’t given names, I wasn’t given schools. I wish I could have used them all but I couldn’t, but it was a big space so we used a lot of them.”
He said some of the images were only part of the page, while they were able to use the entire thing in other cases. After the initial work was done, the city cleaned and touched up the walls before the second round of artwork was added.
“We started adding color to it because to me that’s what it needed,” Palmer said. “It needed to show off the students’ work. I’ve done over 2,500 murals and I’ve never seen anything that comes close to it.”
Students whose work had been incorporated into the mural also attended, getting to see the final version up close. The artwork has been painted over with a sealant to protect it and ABC has tentative plans to add LED lights under the bridge to illuminate the artwork.
“This is what I always wanted it to look like,” Watson said. “I enjoy coming down here and hopefully everybody else does too.”