Saturday, September 15, 2012

Arkadelphia - The Mural Design

Below is a description of the Arkadelphia mural design as it was presented to and approved by the mural Design Team and Clark County Arts and Humanities Council.  This is intended to give an overall sense of the concept and to identify specific images within the design. Some parts of the design may modified slightly during the painting process.
Mural Design Team reviewing the final design.

The main theme for the mural is Education. Within that theme, we have been guided by the phrase, 'The journey from a dream to The Promise.' 

The architecture or infrastructure of the composition is built from the combined ideas of an arch, a bridge, and a porch / stage. Framing the arch at the upper left and right are soaring pine trees reaching up to the sky with a Cockaded Woodpecker on the left (an endangered species protected by the Ross Foundation) and a majestic Blue Heron on the right commonly seen in the area’s rivers and lakes.
At the base of the arch is a series of panels that from left to right represent:

1) The heart of a pine tree, revealing its history and symbolizing ours
2) Caddo pottery decoration
3) Honeycomb as a reference to Group Living where the mural will be
4) A beehive as another reference to Group Living
5) Caddo pottery decoration
6) The salt kettle in front of the courthouse and a molecular diagram of salt

Within the arch is a tableau that celebrates Arkadelphia’s leadership in education.

Beginning at the far left, a young man sits on the porch holding a pine tree seedling (symbolizing his potential) while gazing into his uncertain future and toward aspirations of Ouachita, Henderson, and early educational leaders Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington, who set the ground work for Peake School and thousands of others like it in the 1920’s and 30’s.

Beyond those aspirations, he sees a dynamic allegorical figure that represents the many past and present mentors and teachers who have helped guide Arkadelphia’s young people. As she is conjured up and made real by the designer and apprentice on the steps, she extends her hand as an invitation to the young man and gestures toward the Arkadelphia Promise, which is illuminated under the lantern she carries.

The kick-off ceremony for the Promise at Arkadelphia High School, accompanied by fireworks and music, completes the educational dream of the young man who we see again at the far right. In one hand he carries his diploma and with the other he passes along the symbolic pine seedling to a new student who will soon begin her own journey.

This story is enhanced with specific references to Arkadelphia and Clark County.  Along the length of the porch are references to important institutions and architecture including Caddo dwellings, Hill’s CafĂ©, Peake School, a church, the public library, and the high school stadium.

At center left, a fiddle player sits on the porch and plays the folk tune that is the story of the mural. His music resonates throughout and reminds us that we need to actively maintain a community of giving teachers and mentors who can lead the way for Arkadelphia’s young people.
At the center right, we see a group from our mural design team engaged in the process that has led us here. They have given their time to do what the fiddle player symbolizes –  telling the story of this community’s commitment to giving each person the tools and resources they need to be able to reach their full potential.

In the center above and behind the figure for education, is an iconic view of the Ouachita River from The Bluff. Looking out from its edge are the explorers Hunter and Dunbar who were the first to map this region. In the background just below The Bluff, the rings of a giant tree (inspired by the Ross Foundation’s remarkable lobby) connect the story from dream to promise. Within those rings we see the confluence of the Caddo and Ouachita Rivers.

To the right and left of The Bluff, are panels with decorations inspired by designs on the old Arkadelphia High School. Within these panels will be included quotes from Arkadelphia’s great poet and humanitarian John Allen Adams. And at the very top center, an illuminated letter A for Arkadelphia is carried forward by doves of peace.

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