In an attempt to revamp a section of buildings in downtown Joplin, a series of brand new murals are currently being constructed underneath the viaduct, on 6th Street and Virginia. Alongside the Downtown Joplin Alliance, Burt Bucher, a Missouri Southern Fine Arts Professor became the driving force behind these four vibrant works.
During a brief conversation over the origins of this project, Bucher stated that he had spent upwards of eighty hours sketching and designing the layout of this project over the summer. Alongside Bucher, several students attending Southern also played a role in bringing these murals to fruition. One of which was James Judd, a senior Fine Arts major on campus.
“One afternoon, a few weeks before classes began, I decided to walk down to the site and check out the progress they’d made. Without any intentions of working on the project, Mr. Bucher invited me to help them out.” said Judd.
By Judd’s account, he spent roughly six hours total detailing and finalizing different aspects of the project. According to Bucher, the original theme for the murals relied heavily on the use of pop art and leaned in a more promotional direction. Bucher added that depictions of hotdogs, chicken wings, business logos etc. were a part of the earliest layout, essentially nodding at various local shops and restaurants occupying nearby city blocks.
Least to say, the original theme did not pan out quite like Bucher and the Downtown Alliance had planned. After scrapping the initial design, Bucher stated that he had decided to approach the project with a more “universal” direction in mind.
During the second blueprinting phase, Bucher reportedly had been inspired by a downtown mural composed in 1970’s. Located behind the Frisco building on Main Street, this decades-old artwork, produced by former Southern students, features several lions in the mix which ultimately helped derive the concept for his new project. Bucher looked to incorporate an array similar visuals.
“Commemorating the community and also tying in Missouri Southern was our goal. Other than a lantern being an academic symbol for the university, the idea was a contrast between light and darkness. We are brightening up the space in both a literal and symbolic way. The strength of a lion and the light from the lantern join each other in hopes of creating a brighter, more clean space.”
A secondary layer to this extensive project is also currently in production. Bucher and his students are symbolically paying tribute to various successful Southern alumni. This list includes former astronaut and currentCenter Director at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Janet Kavandi, as well as Dennis Weaver, an American actor best known for his role in the television series “Gunsmoke.”
Bucher said that the commemoration of these successful graduates in this public display will help show incoming and current Southern attendees that a bright future can be attained by anyone, no matter where they are from.