(Jessica Stout puts the finishing touches on her British Flyers mural)
Jessica Stout, art instructor at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO), is in the final stages of completing a mural commissioned at the Miami Regional Airport. The mural features a T-6 Texan training plane over the airfield once used by the 2124 Royal Air Force Pilot (RAF) Trainees Spartan School of Aeronautics from 1941 to 1946. “I have done large-scale projects like this before, but each work has its challenges,” said Stout. “The whole community has really come together behind this project and provided so much support, and community support was one of the main reasons the British Flyers were so welcome here during the war.”
The mural is the brainchild of Meagan Doherty, the airport office manager. When she joined the airport staff, much of the front office was bare. Over the last year, she has slowly been improving the décor of the space. “When I started, the walls were just bare white. I started with a few pictures here and a diagram there, but Kim Horn, director of human resources/cemetery, put the idea in my head of honoring the RAF and the history of the air field with a mural,” said Doherty. “I didn’t know who even painted murals when I got started, but Airport Director Tyler Cline put in contact with Jessica very quickly.” Stout has taught at NEO for over 5 years, but is also active in Miami cultural events such as the Miami Little Theatre and the Miami Arts & Humanities Council. For Stout, painting the mural is only the final part of the process. “Planning is always the longest part of any piece like this,” said Stout. “In this case, the room was too narrow to set up a projector to throw my sketch on the wall, so I had to ask for help from a friend who does work with computer-aided drafting. They were able to print out a large panel that comprised about a quarter of the total mural, so I was able to do my transfer off that.” The oval border surrounding the scene is unexpectedly one of the most complex details of the mural. “You can’t freehand something that precise,” added Stout. “Anyone who looks at an oval is going to know if it looks wrong, so getting the curve to be smooth and perfect based off of my quarter panel was critical.”
Historical Context In 1941, the Royal Air Force opened the Number 3 British Flying School on land leased through the American owned Spartan Aircraft Company out of Tulsa. Located just east of the current Miami Regional Airport, the RAF school gave British cadets not only flight training, but also general aviation instruction. The twenty-week course averaged 180 cadets, who would receive their wings upon its completion. The school trained 1,493 pilots before it closed in 1945. During that time, the British cadets not only trained in Miami, but also enjoyed the hospitality of the area. Along with sanctioned organizations such as the U.S.O., the cadets also spent time at Miami theaters, stores, and restaurants. “The Brits spoke very highly of the meals, training facilities, and the hospitality of the community,” added Doherty. “That’s what makes Miami a great place to live. I have put my heart and soul into this project and am very excited to share it with the community!” Fifteen British cadets are buried in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) cemetery in Miami. They were killed in training accidents during the school’s operation. In the years following, the British Flyers endowed a scholarship through the NEO Development Foundation that provides varying $1,000 scholarships each year to students graduating from Miami High School.
Community Support Reflecting the community support from World War II, several individual and business donors helped fund the project. Among the corporate donors, Osborn Drugs, City of Miami Solid Waste, First National Bank, Newell Coach, and the Miami Arts & Humanities Council donated money toward the project. Pioneer Printing donated the plaque that is on display alongside the mural, Sherwin Williams donated the paint, and Route 66 Rental waived a portion of the lift rental. To view the completed mural, visit the Miami Regional Airport at 2600 Rex Plott Road in Miami, just west of the GAR cemetery. To find out more about art programs at NEO, contact Jessica Stout at Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org.