The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 15, 2013

Myriad murals: Eight projects in the works around Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. — His voice filled with concern, Don Larker tried to break the news gently.

“You might want to sit down,” he told Paul Whitehill, owner of Images in Tile. “You spelled Albuquerque wrong.”

Whitehill’s head whipped around to take in the mural that depicts the path Route 66 cuts across the country, where a crew was putting on the finishing touches along the south wall of the Pearl Brothers building near Seventh and Main streets.

“Did they?” he asked, zeroing in on the New Mexico portion of the mural.

“April Fools,” Larker said with a laugh, as Whitehill broke into a grin.

Larker, an Amarillo, Texas, resident was passing through Joplin on Friday as part of his work as a distributor for Real Time Products, the maker of more than 400 Route 66 items. Having seen the Galena, Kan., mural that Images in Tile recently installed there, he said he wanted to check on the progress of the two the company is putting together on Main Street. The chance to rib its creator was just a bonus.

The murals are just two of eight that are either under way or in the planning stages for Joplin.

The smaller of the two murals by Images in Tile, which sits at ground level, was in its final stages of completion on Friday. Installation will begin today  on the larger of the two, which will be placed high on the side of the building so that it can be seen from a distance.

“My target is to be done by the 24th, which will give us a week’s buffer between finishing and the start of the (Route 66 International Festival),” said Whitehill.

A dedication of the murals will be held on Aug. 1, the opening day of the festival. He said that he expects the mural park to be a draw for travelers as they come through town.

“That’s the whole point behind the murals,” he said. “Joplin, unfortunately, doesn’t have much of a Route 66 identity. When I did the mural in Galena, I met more than 400 people from all over the world, probably. Everybody I talked to, I asked: ‘Where did you stop in Joplin?’

“The answer was always ‘Nowhere.’”

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