Situated across Avenue A Park along the banks of Cow Creek, the giant 35 by 150 foot wall is the backdrop to many of Hutchinson's parades and community celebrations. It's in such a prominent location that I knew back then that the finished mural would become a part of Hutchinson's identity for residents and visitors. Gulp, it was the biggest and most important project I'd ever taken on. When I first visited with artists, students, and community leaders in '02, I heard over and over again a chorus of Wheat, Cosmosphere, and State Fair. The challenge was how to create something unique, meaningful, and beautiful out of these icons that didn't feel like a billboard for the convention and visitors bureau.
Further discussions at design meetings focused on Hutchinson's relationship to space exploration and how we could create an evocation of the wonder of the starry sky that was different, and perhaps more personal, than what had already been done very well in the Cosmosphere itself. Some suggested that a twilight sky was all that was needed, others wanted to depict the constellations. The constellations, that's it I thought, and asked the group "What constellations do you mean?"
|Camille Bachand in 2002 working on the mural design.|
This poetic take on constellations led me to the great Kansas poet William Stafford, who grew up in Hutch, and to a stanza in his beautiful poem Keepsakes that reads, Any star is enough if you know what star it is. Perfect, I thought. How to incorporate that line of the poem into the design led to the final element in the central part of the mural. Stafford the poet would be there in the mural looking up as he wrote. And he would be joined by an astronomer looking at the same sky through the lens of science, while a young boy perched on his parent's shoulders would touch a constellation that us grown-ups could only imagine.
But the mural is much more than just this panel. The constellations are framed on the left by a giant shock of wheat symbolically aflame at its base and supported by recognizable Kansas quilt patterns, and on the right by a nearly life size State Fair Ferris wheel illuminated in the twilight. Below the wheat and Ferris wheel panels are six smaller panels two of which were designed by Hutchinson school kids and their counterparts visiting for the summer from Northern Ireland.
|Student panel with visitors from Northern Ireland.|
|Charlie and Trey on the scissor-lift.|
|Charlie Roberts working on the Cosmoshere panel.|
|Ashley Laird in 2012 repairing the mural.|
|Me in front the mural in 2012.|
|"Ad Astra" 2012|