News Column

Bulldog mural at historical museum could include you

June 6, 2014

By Laura Carrell, Ottumwa Courier, Iowa

June 06--OTTUMWA -- If you attended Ottumwa High School or have a relative who did, you can be part of a new exhibit at the Wapello County Historical Museum.

Local artist Josh De Leon has been tasked with creating an Ottumwa Bulldog-themed mural for one wall of the museum. The center portion of De Leon's mural is the timeline of a young bulldog reading the Argus yearbook. In his mind, he watches all of the older bulldogs as they accomplish great things during high school, culminating at graduation.

"It has to connect the very first class at the high school to where we are now, and that process takes a very long time. I have to take into consideration the accomplishments that have been made all throughout the high school and ... not just make it about one thing. That has been very difficult," he explained. "What makes an artist a true artist is when he doesn't have to explain his artwork. I think it should be something that people will connect with as soon as they see it."

But that center section will only take up about a third of the wall. The other two sides will have a very special, very personal touch. De Leon and the museum are asking anyone in the community who has photographs of themselves or their family members who attended the high school. They will be collaged together into two special memory boards that will be placed on either side of De Leon's painting.

"When children come in, they see old stuff. They don't connect with it," said Dee Hall of the Wapello County Historical Museum Board. "There was nothing about OHS on that wall, and we thought we could do something different with it. School kids can come through, and they'll recognize it as their future school. For older people, it will bring back some good memories."

Photographs can be dropped off at the museum during regular hours with names of those in the photos and the donor's contact information on the back. For more information, call the museum at 641-682-8676.

"We want people to bring in photos and say 'I'm on that wall. My parents are on that wall,'" Hall said. "Probably 80 percent of the people in Ottumwa went to the high school, so we know there are pictures out there. They can be sports, other activities."

For De Leon, the project has been a very special one for him. It's an opportunity to combine his love of art with his love for the Ottumwa community.

"Art has always been a passion for me, I just never thought I would reach something like this, to do something for the community," he said. "Museums have always been places where people are in awe, so to me it's bigger than just doing a mural. It's a way of letting Ottumwa know that somebody who grew up here, moved here, after all these years still cares about the kids here and cares about their future."

An OHS graduate himself, De Leon says he's had some great mentors along the way, including Mr. Nickerson and Mr. Downing at the high school.

"I would like to thank them because they don't only teach their class, they take five or 10 minutes every day to let the kids know that if you believe in yourself and push yourself, you'll reach things that you never thought were possible, and that's where I'm at right now," De Leon said.

De Leon is also doing a mural for the coaches' office at the high school next week and one in the music department. Those are the two projects he's looking forward to, painting people and embracing what the departments mean to the students who attend classes in Ottumwa.

The museum is located on the second floor of the train depot, 210 W. Main St. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

-- Follow reporter Laura Carrell on Twitter @CourierLauraC


(c)2014 the Ottumwa Courier (Ottumwa, Iowa)

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Source: Ottumwa Courier (IA)

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