If you’ve been in downtown Shawnee lately, you may have noticed a gradual change just east of the corner of Johnson Drive and Nieman Road.
Gone is the “quilt square” mural that has long been a landmark on the side of a building that houses Pegah’s Family Restaurant and several other businesses. In its place, a new mural is beginning to come into focus, courtesy of the Rotary Club of Shawnee.
How the project came to be: The mural is the result of some serendipity, says Kathy Peterson, a past president of the club who has been working for several months to make the new art come about.
- The Rotary had recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and was looking for a way to celebrate by giving back to the community, Peterson said.
- The club had several years ago donated a sculpture of a hand holding a globe at Listowel Park on a different anniversary and wanted to continue the tradition.
Good timing allows for Shawnee mural refresh
As fate would have it, the owner of the building where the downtown mural is was planning repairs and the existing mural would have to be painted over, she said.
- Peterson is not sure how long the mural had been there, but said it’s been long enough to become a familiar landmark to those who drive through Shawnee. The mural was done in the style of quilt squares, with a gazebo its most prominent feature in the center, surrounded by squares with a covered wagon and other old-timey images.
- So after getting the owner’s okay, the club commissioned local artist Jacob Cromer to paint a new mural in its place. The work is already in progress, with outlines of the new work beginning to come into view.
Kansas symbols dominate new design: The new mural is more vibrant and features city and state images like the Kansas state seal, wheat shocks and a red-tailed hawk, Peterson said. Through the middle is the name “Shawnee” and each side has a quote: “Rise by lifting others,” and “This is where fun happens.”
- Peterson said the mural is meant to be interactive, meaning people might pose in front of the bird to be pictures with wings, or they could position themselves to appear to be holding the wheat.
- “Rotary is all about communities helping communities,” Peterson said, adding that the club sees doing things for others as more important than advertising itself. “We didn’t use it as an ad campaign, it was never going to be about us. It was going to be about the community and celebrating what we have, what we can do, how we can be.”
- Since it’s on private property, the mural was done without any taxpayer money or city approval process that happens when the city commissions art, she said.
Another mural planned nearby: The new mural currently in the works won’t be the only vibrant design visible to downtown Shawnee patrons in the coming years.
- The restoration of the Shawnee State Bank building across the street includes plans for a new mural to be created on the south side of the building.
Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist who reports frequently for the Post and other Kansas City area publications. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.