Monette mural traces cotton history
Area artists completed a historical mural in Monette this week and the city threw a party to celebrate. A special mural dedication reception was held Tuesday, Aug. 12, at city hall. Townspeople, artists, donors and city officials were on hand to celebrate and show their appreciation for the city's newest landmark. The mural is located on south Nance Street, just off Drew Avenue.
"We want to recognize two ladies, Candice Teeter and Lane McKinley, for the fantastic work they did on our mural," Mayor Chub Qualls said. "What was once an ideal has become a reality."
Earlier this year Mayor Qualls was inspired to have a mural painted in Monette. He convinced City Attorney Johnny Dunigan to donate the use of his west office wall for the creation.
Qualls sought sponsors so the project would not be a burden to the city. Soon Greenway Equipment Company agreed to pay the largest portion of the expenses, as the wall was adjacent to the business in downtown Monette. Their newest round bale John Deere cotton picker, #7760, was depicted on the right of the mural, in all its green and yellow glory.
"I tried to imagine how the mural would appear as I looked out my east window," Greenway Manager Mike Estes said. "I was amazed to see how it all unfolded. It is a great addition to the town. You can tell by looking at this mural how far cotton harvesting has come, from picking by hand to the latest in John Deere cotton pickers. This mural has exceeded all of our expectations."
Dunigan replaced the large upstairs windows on his two-story building before work on the mural began and had the exterior brick tuck-pointed to ensure a workable surface. Local painter Jan Cole Roddy covered the exterior with an oil-based primer.
Qualls obtained a referral from Arkansas State University art department professor Tom Chaffee to contact junior art student Candice Teeter to paint the mural.
"I was so excited when I got the call," Teeter said. "I work with Lane McKinley. We are both art majors. She got her art degree from Arkansas Tech in Russellville. We have worked together on church and business murals in the past but have never tackled something this large. We were determined to give it our best shot.
"We were a little scared when we began, but were committed to do it. We brought all our equipment over to the site. We planned the use of exterior latex paint colors."
The Monette Beautification Committee selected three photos to be used to form the basic sketch. The committee obtained approval of the sketch from Greenway before the mural creation began.
"We drew the pencil sketch onto grid paper and laminated it so we could keep it on the job with us," McKinley said. "We did a chalk line grid and drew onto it with dry-erase markers and chalk. Then we just painted it one square at a time. Candice and I each have our strengths and weaknesses, as far as painting goes. We just divided up the work according to what we did best. This has brought us even closer as friends as we undertook such a big job as business partners."
The first portion of the mural scene was taken from a 1908 photo of Rodger Steele driving a horse-drawn timber wagon down North Main Street in Monette. Steele and his family were clearing new ground from their home site in the Macey and Highbanks communities, northwest of Monette. Virgin timber was hauled into town in the wagons and loaded on the Jonesboro Lake City and Eastern Railroad, headed for Chicago Mill. The wagon is shown sitting in front of the The Bank of Monette, established in 1900. Dr. D.H. Grady's office was located in the two-story white building next door.
Members of the Steele family became mural donors, along with several others, when they heard of the ongoing project and planned use of the photo of their grandfather.
"The artistry in the mural has captured the essence of Pappa Steele," grandson John Steele said. "He was bigger than life himself, and it is great to see his legacy flourish."
"The Monette City Beautification Committee approved the pictures depicted in the mural," Chairman Joyce Read said. "They took what we wanted and followed through completely, in a beautiful way. The people of our town have watched this mural go up from start to finish. I don't see how Candice and Lane got any work done with all the visitors who came by daily."
The middle portion depicts a scene where laborers were picking cotton by hand, and weighing it on a pea-scale attached to a wooden tripod. Workers are wearing long pick-sacks full of cotton and the fields in the background are white with harvest.
The new 7760 John Deere cotton picker is at the far right, a testament of mechanical machinery at its best.
"We appreciate Johnny Dunigan allowing us to use his building for the mural," Qualls said. "All he asked us to do was paint a green Buffalo on it somewhere. Even though Johnny graduated from BIC, he has nostalgia for the Buffalo, which was the former Monette High School mascot. Monette's school colors were green and white. A green and white Buffalo has been placed on the north corner of the mural."
Billy Brasfield rode his old bicycle to the mural site each day to watch the progress. He visited with the two artists and they became friends. After Teeter and McKinley completed the mural they agreed to do something special for their friend Billy. They jointly bought him a brand new bicycle and gave it to him when the mural was dedicated.
"I am going to miss Candice and Lane," Brasfield said. "I looked forward to getting up each day and going down to watch them work. This mural means a lot to me, as I have never seen a picture so beautiful and so big. I don't see how in the world they did it. When you get up close to it you can't tell what it is, but when you back off like I did you can see the whole picture real plain."
The artists placed drawings of the six stages of cotton at the bottom of the mural between the words "Buffalo Island" and "Greenway Equipment Company."
"We have no one else to thank for the completion of this but God," Teeter said. "We worked it out together, praying all the way."