After nearly two years of hoping and planning, the California Progress Inc. finally is seeing its mural project in color.
Muralist Dennis Holliday started work last week on the Moniteau County Historical Society genealogy library wall facing South Street in California. By the end of January, the 60-by-10-foot mural depicting scenes at the Moniteau County Fair should be complete.
"We really wanted the fair mural on a street going to the fair," committee member Gail Hughes said. "This location is ideal."
A contract has been signed between CPI, the historical society and Holliday. CPI agrees to ongoing maintenance and repair of the mural in the future.
"It's a real thrill for me to have the first step," Hughes said. "Once people see the first one, we hope enthusiasm will expand for more walls."
Holliday said murals can be a "great calling card" and proposed the historic society's genealogy library and museum may see an increase in visitors, as the mural will draw the attention of passers-by who may not have stopped to consider what's inside the buildings before.
"This will certainly put us on the map," museum Director David Jungmeyer said. "This will be wonderful, such an addition to the community."
He said he will work when the weather allows, as the brick must not be too hot or too cold.
The features of the fair mural are still being worked out, but it should include livestock, horse shows, the carnival, 4-H and FFA exhibits, hams, and the grandstand.
Holliday, who recently completed a 40-by-22-foot mural near city hall in Versailles, specializes in murals that give the illusion of being three-dimensional. He intends for that to be the case with this mural.
And Holliday invites local visitors to stop by while he's working to share their memories of the fair, which can help him finalize the mural's design. Local artists also are invited to join him to learn the craft of mural art.
In the last 10 years, Holliday has completed about 30 murals, including the veterans mural on the VFW wall at the courthouse square in California. His interest in murals began in grade school, making wide-paper pictures and signs, but he was inspired after a fourth-grade visit to the Missouri State Capitol, where he first saw the Thomas Hart Benton murals. He earned a bachelor's degree in education at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.
Over the years, he's learned tricks, such as watching the rain clouds and measuring the surface temperature by touch.
Most of his work is free hand, using perspective from the center and horizon line. He said he may climb up and down the ladder several times to view each step of his work from a distance to get it right.
But he doesn't need to draw it out on the wall, as he sees it in his mind, he said.
"God gave me a gift, and I get to use it," Holliday said.
Before starting a historic mural, he researches photos and stories. But he has found his murals improve along the way, as visitors stop and share their personal memories.
"I learn so much," he said.
The CPI mural project hopes to add at least 10 murals throughout the heart of California, he said.
The next mural will be located on Sweet Buy and Buy's north wall, highlighting about 16 industries that have come and gone or are still present in California. And, whenever the Moniteau County Library wall is restored, CPI hopes to revisit the idea of a railroad-themed mural on that north-facing wall.
Hughes said the CPI murals eventually will have explanations along with them to share the history with future generations.
"We hope we will get 10 or more murals in town," Hughes said. "Maybe we can develop a school curriculum so students are more familiar with their community."