By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
A group of young artists has brushed up on local history, producing an exhibit that is to be on display in May in observance of National Historic Preservation Month.
Sixteen students of the Local Color Gallery have painted pictures of about 40 of Joplin’s historic houses and buildings, and other subjects.
An exhibit of the works, “Old Joplin Through Young Eyes,” is on display at the Post Memorial Art Reference Library inside the Joplin Public Library, 300 S. Main St. An opening party for the exhibit will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
“I am very proud of the young artists and their teachers for focusing on Joplin’s historic architecture,” said Leslie Simpson, director of the Post library and a local historian.
This year’s theme for National Historic Preservation Month is “See! Save! Celebrate!”
“What better way to promote historic preservation than to get our young people to see, save and celebrate Joplin’s heritage,” Simpson said.
Gallery instructor Margie Moss said the project began after one historic building burned.
“Our gallery looks out over the Rains Brothers Building and it burned, so we started talking about it,” she said. “We did some research and the students were anxious to learn more about the historical sites in town.”
The Rains Brothers Building was in the 900 block of Main Street. The students’ art class is a block away at the Gryphon Building, 1047 S. Main St. Student Ben Koelkebeck painted the building because he found it interesting “how it burned down and I never really noticed it there” before the March 2012 fire.
That caused the students to wonder about more sites.
Moss and the other teachers at the gallery, Jesse McCormick and Percilla Penner, searched out details about a number of places and found images to help the children decide what to study and paint.
Some of the paintings depict sites that no longer exist, such as the Connor Hotel or the Thomas Mine painted by Raymond Nguyen from historic images.
“He likes it,” said his mother, Tuoi Nguyen. “He loves to paint. He draws and does some paintings at home after school” in addition to going to classes.
Other subjects are existing buildings, such as St. Peter’s Catholic Church. One of the students, Julianna Joseph, displayed her painting of the church at St. Avips, a fundraiser for the Spiva Center for the Arts. The museum’s director, Jo Mueller, bought it.
“It was amazing,” Juliana said of selling her art. It’s on loan, though, for this show.
Two weeks ago, the students painted several historic houses in lessons on plein air painting — painting landscapes by sitting outdoors.
Sisters Connalee and Cydney Churchwell chose to paint their family’s home, the historic Picher house, and gave the class a tour inside.
“I think it’s amazing how old these houses are and how much they have weathered through,” said Connalee said.
Kaila Winn painted the Carl Junction mammoth. Three or four mammoth fossils were unearthed in Carl Junction decades ago. They were sent to the Chicago World’s Fair to be displayed but were lost after the fair and never returned to Carl Junction.