Public art has proven itself to be one of the best economic investments a community can make. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $166 Billion in economic activity across the country (Atlantic Monthly Feb 2009).
The contribution of art includes tourism, of course. But, equally important, it gives citizens a new way to see their town and it helps pull the community together around beauty.
Muskogee Parks and Recreation ordered cedar covered mailboxes to hold brochures for Honor Heights Park and local artists painted them. Six are completed and installed.
Susie Lawrence of Braggs and Olivia Walton, 16, of Muskogee will paint two more. Lawrence is a member of Muskogee Arts Council and Walton is a local artist. Walton painted the guitar at the Hwy 69 Visitors Center and has painted many banners for the Azalea Festival.
Joshua Blundell, 17, a Warner High School student, said he liked painting the mailbox that will be placed at the Kirschner koi pond.
Since it was for the koi pond, I decided to make it look like you were under water with the fish swimming around,”Blundell said.
Blundell has painted props for his church and entered 4-H contests at school. He also entered a drawing of a cowboy in an art contest at the Oklahoma City National Cowboy Hall of Fame and competed in a Cherokee Nation art contest.
The work of Don Jones, 65, of Porter, is familiar to Muskogee residents. Jones painted the mural at Arrowhead Mall as well as the pictures of P.J. Hoopes Sr. and Jack Jr. that hang out front on the second floor of Hoopes Hardware on Main ST.
I have painted Azalea Festival banners for years, Jones said. I was thinking of the swan paddle boats and the ducks when I painted ducks on the mailbox.
The Van Gogh themed mailbox in the Rose Garden was painted by Jim Eaton, based on a painting the Eatons have at their home.
I paint banners for Symphony in the Park and I have painted banners for the Azalea Festival since it began, Eaton said. This was fun and I hope people enjoy it.
Barbara Downs, 70, of Muskogee, painted a mailbox with butterflies, which is in one of the butterfly gardens.
Downs said she has painted all her life. Up until a few years ago she sold her art at craft shows and at Fin and Feather.
Downs said. The mailbox was fun to do. I haven't been painting for a few years and it was good to get back into it.
Ruth Box painted the brightly colored orange-pink mailbox by the waterfall, 86, of Muskogee.
Box said, “I wanted it to be something you would see. It is pink-orange – colorful enough to show in the park when the flowers are in bloom.”
Long-time artist, Wren Stratton, painted the mailbox at the White Garden entrance.
Everyone we asked to paint one of the mailboxes was excited to do it, Stratton said. We can’t wait to see them.
Friends of Honor Heights Park will help design and write information that will be laminated and placed in the boxes.
Muskogee Parks and Recreation director Mark Wilkerson said, I think they are a fun and unique way of distributing park and garden information to our visitors.
To protect the artists’ work, Jon Stoodley reinforced the posts and applied three coats of Spar marine varnish with a compressor-powered spray gun.
Muskogee Convention and Tourism director, Treasure McKenzie stepped up with funding for the mailboxes and printing costs, making the project a team effort for the benefit of citizens and visitors alike.
These new additions to the park are an excellent way to show visitors we care, McKenzie said.
(I would love to have the photos to go with this great story of public volunteerism. But, alas, I have attempted to upload photos to Blogger several times a day for the past few days and it is broken. Hopefully Google will fix it soon. You can click on the Phoenix story link to see 3 of the 6. Thanks to our great Features editor, Leilani Ott!!)