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Artist Zachary Fitz diligently working on the center piece of the mural, while Christine Riutzel is working on her piece in the background.

Artists are working with the city to create a unique public art installation on Downing Street in downtown Hollister.

The city of Hollister and the Southern Missouri Arts Connection have teamed up to create a fun mural inspired by the history of the town and area on the new retaining wall across from Downing Street in Hollister. 

The city of Hollister has embraced the art community and hopes to contiune to be a home for the arts, according to Hollister Deputy City Administrator Denise Olmstead.

“The arts have really kind of adopted Hollister in the last few years,” said Olmstead. “It is something that we, as a town, had always hoped would happen. Downing Street just has kind of that artistic feel to it. It felt like (a) natural place for the arts. We had hoped as a community that the arts would find their way to Hollister and they have.”

According to Olmstead, the art community is thriving in Hollister and the city is excited to partner with SMAC, which is a local organization that has a location on Downing Street.

“The arts are here and working with Christine (Riutzel) and the SMAC team. With them having a presence here on Downing Street, it gives them an opportunity to have some ownership of what the design of the mural is. Because they are going to look at it everyday too. It’s really great.”

The mural will be composed of seven pieces, painted by seven different artists. Each piece will be inspired by the history of Hollister and by Missouri nature, according to the Southern Missouri Arts Connection Art Center Coordinator Christine Riutzel.

“There are seven sections of the mural, and we are going to do a faux rock in between the sections to give an homage to the old rock wall that used to be here,” said Riutzel. “All the artists came up with their own ideas for their part of the wall. It was really important to me, as an artist, to have a lot of creative freedom in what I do, but I also want to know the limitations. So the artists were given a lot of themes to work with.”

According to Riutzel, there was a lot of research done about Hollister to give the artists some interesting and fun choices to inspire their piece. 

“Before we began, I did a bunch of research about Hollister, so I had some cool subject matter in mind,” said Riutzel. “Some of the artists (were) not familiar with the history of Hollister. So I was like there are a lot of different subject matter for you to work with. I know some people would really like to see a train, or homage to the architecture of Hollister or Missouri nature and then I just let them go with their concepts.” 

The artists were allowed to design their own section for the wall, but there were certain limitations and guidelines for the designs, according to Riutzel.

“There were some limitations, like no crazy florescent colors,” said Riutzel. “We try to keep in mind who the audience is. We didn’t want to do anything too abstract or weird. So we kept everything quite literal and Hollister or Missouri nature themed.” 

All of the participating artist chosen to be a part of the mural project are from southern Missouri and have been involved with SMAC before, according to Riutzel. 

“Even though some of them are from Springfield or the surrounding area, they have a passion for public art,” said Riutzel. “I am also involved in public art in Springfield. SMAC is actually the sponsor of Mid by Midwest which will be the first mural fest in downtown Springfield. These artists, that were chosen, are people I have worked with in the past, who just have a huge passion for art and are not competitive. We are all on the same team of trying to bring more public art to the southern Missouri area.”

According to Riutzel, the artists creating the mural are Sarah Weisman, Christine Riutzel, Jennifer Manning,Tia Eli Calfee, Lacey Finchum, Zachary Fitz, and Meg Wagler.

City officials are eager to see the finished product of the artists’ hard work, according to Olmstead. 

“At city hall, we are extremely excited,” said Olmstead. “We have been able to see Downing Street come to life over the last several years and having this (mural) will be unique kind of a focal point for the street. You will be able to stand at one end of the mural wall and see something and maybe next week you will stand at the other end and see something different. It just has that unique value to it. I have been down here several times since they started, watching it come to life. Then going back to city hall and telling everybody there that the mural is coming to life.”

The time frame for completion on a mural this size depends on several factors, according to Riutzel. 

“I am more experienced, so I have an idea that my section may take me a week if I work on it six hours a day,” said Riutzel. “Some artists are a little bit slower and are a bit more of a perfectionist. They were given a time frame of two weeks, at the most. But we really want to hustle and get it done. Some artists’ designs are more simplistic and they will whip them out in a couple of days. Some artists will take a long time because their designs are more intricate.”

All seven of the artists chosen will bring their own voice, experience and style to the mural, according to Riutzel. 

“All the styles are very different, which I really like,” said Riutzel. “It was super important for me to have diversity. We have a Branson High School student doing a piece; it is her very first mural. We have other artists who bring in more experience whose styles are a little bit more mature. I really like to have people look at a mural and relate to some part of it. I want people to be like, ‘I really like this but I am not a fan of that.’ We are representing all kinds of artists, in skill level, style and age and that should show in our pieces.”

According to Olmstead, the city wanted the mural to be completed before the summer season started. 

“We wanted it to be done before we get busy with the season,” said Olmstead. “We are excited that it is coming to life so quickly.”

Riutzel said she hoped that the mural inspires people and helps to promote public art. 

“If I saw a mural like this when I was in high school, I would be like, ‘Oh, I really want to do that’,” said Riutzel. “When I was in high school in the area there really was no public art, and no one that was like representing public art. That is why it was really cool that we were like oh we are having a high school student, then we have someone who is in their forties working on the same project. That is just really cool. Art has no limitations.”

According to Olmstead, the city of Hollister is making improvements to areas where there are a lot of art events scheduled to be held in the town this year.

“We are finishing up the restroom at Chad A. Fuqua Memorial Park, which will be a huge asset for all the events that are planned. The Taneycomo Festival Orchestra, which will have their 10th anniversary season this year, has made Chad Park their home for their summer series. We have BRAC, Branson Regional Arts Council, will utilize the park for their youth summer institute, Peter Pan Jr. in June. We have State of the Ozarks hosting their Writers Artist Night there as well. There is just a lot of art happening in every variety from the theatrical to visual arts. We are just excited to be a part of that.”

For more information about SMAC visit www.smac-art.org/.

For more information about art events in Hollister visit www.cityofhollister.com, click ‘Residents’, click ‘Community News’, click ‘Your Community of the ARTS’.

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