FORTVILLE — In what can only be described as a team effort, several local organizations and business owners, along with a group of high school art students, have come together to create a lasting — and prominent — reminder of Indiana’s bicentennial year in Fortville.
Measuring 14 feet tall and 24 feet wide, and featuring Fortville founder Cephas Fort and a locomotive that pays homage to the town’s rail heritage, a mural has been gradually taking shape on the north side of a building on Main Street in Fortville.
“I was given carte blanche to design this thing,” said Mike McEvers, a well-known owner of a sign business in town who has led the composition and production of the mural.
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McEvers said he has built hundreds of electric signs in the Indianapolis area, including ones for Mozzi’s, Dairy Queen and Subway in Fortville, but he describes himself as a hand sign painter at heart. As a member of an international mural group called the Wall Dogs, he has painted many murals around the country.
McEvers designed the Fortville mural about a month ago and started work on the building at 305 S. Main St. a couple of weeks ago. The plan is for it to be finished before the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay passes through town Friday, Oct. 14.
McEvers said he is on a relatively tight deadline to get the mural done, but the idea for a mural in town began more than a year ago, said Theresa Werking, a board member of Fortville Action Inc., a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the town. She is also co-chairwoman of the Fortville Bicentennial Celebration.
Werking said Matt Dixon, owner of the building, approached her with the mural idea; she liked it but struggled to get the effort going.
When her son, Henry, was inducted into the National Art Honor Society at Mt. Vernon High School last fall, she thought, “Oh, this is the group that’s going to paint the mural,” she said.
But designing a mural proved to be more difficult than first thought, and eventually Werking, Dixon and MVHS art teacher Trista Hurst, sponsor of the art student group, got McEvers on board for the project.
“Mike just kind of took the bull by the horns and came up with a design,” Werking said.
With funding for supplies from Fortville Action and equipment to help do the job from Dixon, who owns a construction company, McEvers had what he needed to proceed.
He said he consulted with local historian Rebecca Crowe and came up with the design that featured the town founder, the dates the town and state were founded, a large train and a sign for Staat Street, along which the town’s interurban rail line once passed.
Werking said she loved the design.
“I just think it’s really cool,” Werking said, noting the trains are an essential part of the town’s character. “It’s a part of everybody’s life here, it really is.”
Werking said McEvers took his design and explained the project to
Fortville and Hancock County officials to make sure it was OK and didn’t violate any regulations; after getting the green light from them, he dove in.
McEvers said despite the quick turnaround time on the project, it won’t be a rush job; he said he doesn’t cut corners and couldn’t even bear the thought of doing so on a project this prominent in his hometown.
“I’m a type A, Aries, full-of-energy guy,” he said.
Plus, those students were still on board to help with the application of the paint. McEvers did all the measuring and scaling of his mural on the wall, using a marker to draw the outlines and borders.
The students, during a full-day field trip Friday, Sept. 23, worked to get as much of the paint as possible on the wall under McEvers’ guidance.
Hurst said the mural project, which will fulfill some service hours requirements of the honors society, is providing the students a chance to learn some new skills; they’ve never worked on something of this scale or under these conditions before.
Besides also learning some tips and tricks of painting outdoors and using different paints, she said the students are learning local history they might not have known.
And they will form a greater connection to their hometown and posterity, too, she said.
“I’m thrilled that the students are going to be able to look at the wall later and know they had a part.”
It was a sentiment echoed by some of the students.
“I think it’s going to be so neat, especially as an adult, to come back and say I painted this part of the mural,” junior Nathanael Corrales said.
Senior Hannah Martin said the mural provided a good way to give back.
She said the painting was hard work, and the scale of the piece made it “a lot trickier.”
And she liked the idea of leaving an indelible mark on the town.
“I think it’ll be cool one day to bring our children back here to show them our art.”
Above: Mike McEvers works on the outline of the mural. Left: Mt. Vernon High School National Art Honor Society members help paint the mural. Pictured (from left) are senior Drake Tackett, sponsor Trista Hurst, and seniors Emily Pizzano, Mariah Moore, Henry Werking, Sam Jobe and Hannah Martin. Others who helped that day were senior Payton Hooten; juniors Isabel Baker, Emily Bostrom, Nathanael Corrales, Claire Dorsch, Erin Dunn, Kaesyn Herzog, Ashley Uppfalt and Gabby Warner; and sophomores Lily Hampton and Morgan Seeman.