News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 4, 2013

Downtown mural shows link with Wabash

Painted by wife and husband team

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A new, outdoor mural in downtown Terre Haute is certain to turn heads and generate conversation.

Several people attended Saturday’s dedication ceremony for the mural, located on the west wall of the Cox, Zwerner, Gambill and Sullivan Law firm at 511 Wabash Ave. The mural celebrates the role the Wabash River plays in the community.

 “I love it. I think it’s magnificent,” said Guille Cox, an attorney with the law firm, after the dedication. “We’re pleased to have made available the empty canvas for the artists to do their magic.”

He believes the mural will generate conversation, and people will be pleased to have more public art downtown.

The husband and wife team of Michael Neary and Amy MacLennan were commissioned for the project, which was sponsored by the Indiana State University Gilbert Wilson Memorial Mural Project.

The mural was funded by ISU’s Strategic Plan “Energize Downtown” initiative and the Center for Community Engagement.

ISU art students assisted Neary and MacLennan, who are professional artists, in painting the mural. “We’re so thrilled to be part of this,” Neary said during the dedication.

The mural will have different meanings and interpretations by each person who sees it, Neary said. Painting the mural is just half of the work. “The other half of the work is done by the people who will see it, hopefully think about it and hopefully talk about it.”

Neary told those attending, “Our part is done, and your part is just beginning.”

MacLennan, who grew up in West Terre Haute and graduated from West Vigo High School and ISU, said it was a “wonderful experience” to return to Terre Haute and give back to the community through the mural project.

The mural is 96 feet wide and two stories tall. It shows a bridge over the river, with scenes of historic moments displayed in three panels separated by the bridge piers. One depicts the devastating 1913 flood. The middle panel, the largest, features an idyllic Wabash on a perfect fishing day. The dry beach from last year’s drought — the worst on record — occupies the third panel.

The lives the river touches also are represented. People ride canoes through the three river eras, from folks paddling through the floodwaters on the left, to recreational anglers in the center, to a family carrying their canoe over drought-scorched sand on the right.

 An eagle, a massive catfish and a bug-eyed frog oversee the activity.

Jon Robeson, executive director of Arts Illiana, noted that the project fits in with the 2013 Year of the River theme.

He described the mural as “a gift to our community. It shows ways art can add value and keep momentum going for progress and growth” in the community and downtown.

David Sullivan, another attorney in the Cox, Zwerner, Gambill and Sullivan Law firm, said he and others had an opportunity each day to see the mural develop. “It was fascinating to watch it from the start, when it was just a blank slate here, and the unbelievable work that went into it,” he said.

He described Neary and MacLennan as “two very talented artists.”

The Gilbert Wilson Memorial Mural Project is an ongoing initiative of ISU’s Department of Art and Design. Led by faculty members Brad Venable and Nancy Nichols-Pethick, its goal is to create public works of art in the Terre Haute community through collaborative activities involving students, community members, and artists.  

Venable believes public art such as the mural “brings joy, makes us proud of our community and makes us closer in our community to see something like this happen.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.