The art department at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) is working on the restoration of “Visual Reflections,” a mural painted for Miami’s Centennial celebration in 1991 by NEO students, community members and the late Dr. Nick Calcagno, former chair of the art department. The mural wall, which is on the Osborn Drug Building downtown, had been damaged by water and is being repaired. The design of the mural is being painted by hand on sign panels in the Fine Arts Building on campus by NEO students, faculty, and members of the community. Upon completion, the mural will be reinstalled at its original site on the exterior wall of Osborn Drugs.
“One thing that is so important is the fact that Nick donated his time to create the mural. He spent an entire summer out in the heat with about 10 people,” said Willie Osborn of Osborn Drugs. “It is different from other murals because it is historically accurate and tells a story about our community, and everything featured in the art is significant.”
An entire wall had to be rebuilt due to wear and tear from the weather. Steel nuts and bolts were inserted to straighten the wall up. The mural is being painted on metal, so that it won’t erode, and it will be placed on a frame that will go on the wall. “I am highly indebted to the college for allowing Jessica Stout to dedicate her time to restore Nick’s mural, and hopefully the artwork will be there for many, many years for people to enjoy,” Osborn added.
Jessica Stout, an art instructor at NEO, has worked hand-in-hand with students on this masterpiece and has spent numerous hours on the mural. Stout said, “I estimated 110 hours last summer were devoted to preparing the panels for paint, and that is a conservative estimation.”
Summary of work invested in the mural The translation of Calcagno’s original gridded sketches into useable drawings involved drawing over a copy of his sketches to clarify the sketch lines into contours that could be more clearly read and copied to the panels, constantly comparing the sketches to his model painting on canvas and to photographs of the finished mural. The size of the mural was reduced by 1/3, which took some calculations to fit it onto the metal panels. Estimated time spent on translation: 12 hours.
Translating colors “I separated the colors on the mural sketch into areas so the mural could be filled in like a paint-by-number painting,” Stout said. “I spent about eight hours on color translation. Transferring design to panels Stout experimented with using a projector to transfer the drawings from the gridded sketch to the panels, but it proved to be more time-consuming than just “eye-balling” it and drawing freehand. To make the design come out accurately, it had to be transferred from the one inch blocks on the grid precisely onto the eight inch squares drawn on the panel, and Stout said it was too difficult to align the projector with the panel.
“This has proven to be the most time-consuming and challenging part of the process, and I chose to work on this alone. I did not keep a log of hours spent on the drawing, but there were times I spent all day drawing, which could be up to eight hours. It took about two sessions of working to finish one panel. I enjoyed transferring these drawings, but it was challenging,” Stout said.
Below is the process for each panel: Stout began to paint in the fall of 2012. She often painted during her morning office hours on Tuesday and Thursday and with students filling in areas of base colors during the end of the studio classes. They were making good progress on the first two panels when they were interrupted by the first NEO play performance and had to move everything off to the side of the stage. After this, they were cleared to move the studio classes into Kah-Ne Hall, and as this was quite an undertaking, they did not go back to painting for the rest of the fall semester. The panels were then moved to the vacated art studio in the Fine Arts Building, and students resumed painting there over Christmas break. When the spring semester started, Stout continued to take only a handful of students to work on the painting during studio class time and painted on weekends when possible. The majority of the work was done in the evenings and on weekends by Stout with the help of some high school students and even her own children who were home during Christmas and Spring Breaks.
The Upward Bound students also contributed some time toward the mural. “When I found out that Nick’s mural was going to be restored, I was tickled to death,” said Carol Calcagno, wife of the late Dr. Nick Calcagno. “I am thrilled that the artwork will be up soon. It means so much to me that Nick’s art will live on.”
Plans for Completion of the Mural Stout said she plans to complete the project this summer with some of her own kids, some community members and any students she can recruit. Stout indicated that progress should be good since she has the procedure streamlined and a larger and well-lit area in which to work. Stout will adjust colors as necessary when the panels are in place on the wall of the drugstore. “There were hundreds of hours poured into this painting, but it did not faze the art students at NEO,” Stout added. “Time and dedication to the project are moving these painters forward.”